- Doug Taylor and Rabbi Morton
"What's wrong?" he asked.
I downshifted my Schwinn mountain bike and swerved to avoid a chuckhole in the trail. Next to me, gliding along like he did this every day (and for all I knew, he did), my friend, the King of Rational Thought, rode effortlessly beside me. We had traveled the first mile of this made-over railroad trail south of Duvall in silence, finally broken by his gentle question.
"Nothing," I said, not convincingly. Then, "no, everything. I mean- oh, I don't know. It just seems like nothing's going right."
"Such as?" he inquired.
"Well, let's see," I said, sighing heavily. "Where should I start? My house needs re-roofing. Some developers bought a golf course near my home and plan to inundate our quiet dead-end street with over 100 closely-packed urban dwellings. One part of my investment portfolio has gone incredibly sour. I broke the stem off one of the control knobs on our kitchen stove.
"And," I added with emphasis, "my birthday went by and none of my friends called me."
We rounded a bend and caught the warm morning breeze full in the face. The day was already shaping up to be a scorcher.
"Sounds like you're in a bad mood," said the King of Rational Thought.
"Nothing to worry about," he said, almost nonchalantly.
I turned my head so sharply to glare at him that I almost rode into the ditch.
"What do you mean, nothing to worry about?" I said, my voice rising. "You think I enjoy feeling this way? Doesn't anything ever bother you? Don't you ever get upset, or troubled, or angry?"
"Of course," he replied. "But I've learned to deal with it. I'll show you. You say you're in a bad mood. Have you ever been in a bad mood before?"
"Uh, yeah. I guess so."
"And what happened?"
I thought about it. "Well, I got over it somehow."
"Ok then. Here's the problem. You get into a bad mood. It's not a catastrophe. It just happens. We could explore all the psychological ramifications of it and spend the next 100 years analyzing it, but the fact is, you occasionally get in a bad mood. Now when that happens, you have a feeling that this state - this lousy, nothing-ever-works-right-for-me-and-nobody-likes-me state - will go on forever. Right?"
"Yes," I said. "In spades."
"But that's not reality, is it? Reality is that you've been in a bad mood before, and you've gotten over it. True?"
I didn't want to admit it, but he was right. "Yes," I finally said.
"In fact," he continued as we crossed a bridge, "if you look back on your life, how many times have you been in a bad mood and then gotten out of it?"
"I suppose lots of times."
"So what makes you think this situation is any different? You're in a funk, true. Will it last forever? Almost certainly not."
I saw his point. I had been in these spots before and I always got over it.
"If you're deeply depressed or suicidal," he said, "that's different. Then you need professional help. But otherwise, your life will be a whole lot more peaceful if you just recognize the temporary nature of moods... and situations."
We crossed another bridge. The background chorale of bird songs and rustling trees was surpassed by the distant whistle of the Remlinger Farms steam train.
"I suppose you're right," I said, knowing full well he was right. "It's just so hard to imagine not being in a lousy mood when you are."
"Remember King Solomon?" asked the King of Rational Thought.
"Yes," I replied. "Purported to be the world's wisest man, if I recall."
"It's said of him that he wore a ring bearing the words, 'This will also pass'."
"Hmmm," I said thoughtfully. "Nothing like a constant reminder."
"Speaking of which," he said, "what if I could show you an unusual technique that could simultaneously change your mood, cool you off from this hot ride, and has no long-term after-effects?"
"Sounds great," I said.
He squirted his water bottle at me.