Saturday, April 23, 2022

My Mom's Yellow Bikini

A couple of years back I had a dream where I saw my mother in a motorboat tied to the pier of a mountain lake. She was a young woman at the time and wearing a yellow bikini. She was helping a man--a stranger and not my dad--get the boat ready. Then a phone began ringing in the shack at the land end of the pier. The phone kept ringing and ringing and ringing until my mom asked the man if he was going to answer it. "Could be important," she said. He replied, "If it's important, they'll send a letter."

As far as I know, my mother had never been in a motorboat on such a lake. Who was that man? Plus I'd never seen her in a bikini, and so I had a lot of thoughts about what the dream was telling me. I decided that the big lesson was the man's nonchalant response to the phone call and compared it to the way we react to our situation in the world. There's a general mood of unceasing anxiety, of constant urgency, that the world is in increasing chaos.

Of course, a reality check keeps things in perspective. During the George Floyd riots, when the country seemed ready to fall apart, I stumbled upon a newspaper article from July 1967 that chronicled the Detroit Riots, which were so destructive that Federal troops on the way to Vietnam were diverted to the city and battle tanks rumbled along the streets in a show of force to quell the trouble.  

Such reminders do help but there's much about our modern-day living that stokes the anxiety. Culling through my email makes me feel like the Sorcerer's Apprentice. Dealing with spam texts is like playing Whack-a-Mole at turbo speed. I compare that to what a writer's life was like before computers and the Internet. I imagine Raymond Chandler or Beryl Markham behind the typewriter, tapping the keys, thoughts not disrupted by ring tones or distracted by click-bait. On the credenza sits a basket piled with incoming mail, which can be sifted through at a leisurely pace. During the day, you might take five phone calls. The pace of life was slower, more deliberate, more contemplative. And yet, even with our laptops, we'd be lucky to be as productive or as good as those writers.

Naturally, it's easy to look back upon our predecessors and marvel at the certainty of their times because we know how everything turned out for them. World War Two is regarded with nostalgia. The good old days when total war raged across oceans and continents. On the other hand, modern technology does offer advantages. I was a lousy typist, and still am, and fortunately word-processing software helps me backspace over my mistakes. Give me Word and inkjet printers over Wite-Out and carbon copies. And I sympathize with those poor schmucks who had to reconcile spreadsheets by hand. 

Back to my point of this cloud of anxiety hanging over our society. It's gotten so bad that the demand for mental health counseling includes meeting the needs of the mental health counselors themselves. The pandemic squeezed everybody. Having so much home delivery available is wonderfully convenient but adds to a sense of isolation and that isolation erodes our sense of presence and self-worth. Social media is a cauldron of manic depression. To remain safe and sane we have to relearn what's worked throughout history: stay active, sleep, eat right, avoid self-medicating with drugs and alcohol, socialize, get outside, and cultivate a positive mental attitude.

And don't think about your mom in a yellow bikini.

1 comment:

Charlotte Hinger said...

Mario--my email and messages are driving me crazy. Blocking doesn't seem to have effect at all.