December 6, 2010 § Leave a comment
As my parents and I would make our regular two hour and fifteen minute trek to a cabin in Big Bear, I would look at all of the different people in all of the different cars we would drive by, and wonder, “Why am I me, in this body, in this car, in this family, at this time… and why are you in your body, in your car, in your family, at this time?” In the throws of adolescence, I often pondered, “Why do I exist?”
From my religious training, I understood that I existed to reflect all of the good qualities of a good God who created man (and woman) in His image and likeness. We prayed over every problem, yet, when I became hopeless and helpless, my mother would ask, “Do you want to see a psychiatrist?” But, because it was the late 60s and the early 70s, psychiatry and psychology were still not really part of the mainstream. Certainly not something in which “normal” people participated. In movies and TV they were depicted as dealing with crazy people.
The mere question felt more threatening than helpful, and made me even more fearful. It led me to wonder if there really might be something wrong with me. If I saw someone to help me with my emotional feelings – feelings of fear, anxiety, rejection, insecurity, not fitting in, low self-worth, melancholy, depression, uncertainty of the future, questioning why I exist – would that mean I was crazy? I would always respond to the “Do you want to see a psychiatrist?” question with an emphatic “No!”
In retrospect, I wish I had seen a mental health expert. I believe my healing, my development, my growth into maturity might not have taken as long, nor gone down such a long, lonely path. But, I also might not have discovered the power of my object of transition and transformation – Tom Jones. Mother, who dealt with life’s problems through prayer, wanted the decision to “see somebody” to be my choice, but I was not capable of making that decision.
As I reflect upon my childhood, I might have suffered a little bit from of what is referred to as existential dread. Philosopher Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) who led the way to 20th century existentialism, referred to the Danish word angst as meaning dread or anxiety. As it relates to teenagers, existential dread is a fear, a sometimes unidentifiable, unknown feeling that is almost paralyzing and leads to a loss of hope.
Bullying led me to hide at home where no one would intimidate me or tease me, thoughtless comments of Everyday Jack and Jill led me to hide because I hated the self-consciousness that came with every “How’s the weather up there?” or “Hey spaghetti legs!” But there was something else, something that I couldn’t describe to my parents or anyone else… It was a hopelessness, an inability to see that I had any real positive future… I couldn’t see the forest from the trees… even though I was the tallest tree in the forest.
And would go into my room, listen to “I (Who Have Nothing),” and get lost in the Tom Jones zone.
(Translated to English by Jerry Leiber & Mike Stroller from the Italian song, “Uno Dei Tanti.” Originally released by Ben E. King in 1963; sung by many artists thereafter, but made most popular by Tom Jones in 1970.)
I would hear his voice, see his face, watch him move, and my adolescent heart would sing. I would hold on to Tom Jones… and the singer saved me.
(NOTE: If you feel sad, depressed, fearful, anxious, regularly ponder the meaning of life – not in a good way – seek out the help of a psychiatrist, psychologist, marriage and family therapist, pastor, minister, or family member.)