06 December 2008

The Bears

For the last couple of months, it seems that everyone's been talking about the economy. It's not just public figures, either: It seems that everywhere you go, someone's talking about his or her own, or someone else's, layoff, foreclosure, bankruptcy or some such thing. Sometimes I think even Buddhist monks on mountaintops in Nepal are talking about derivatives and adjustable-rate mortgages.

A time like this one is usually referred to as a "bear" market. I can understand why: It's as if the world is retreating grumpily. A lot of people looked that way today, even the ones walking down Broadway and toting full holiday shopping bags from boutiques and department stores. Do they feel guilt? Are they shopping to keep up appearances? Or are they simply worn down by the relative lack of festivity that seems to be the tone for this holiday season?

Now, I'm not the most festive person at Christmastime. I'm not unhappy; indeed, I have much to look forward to in the upcoming holidays and, I anticipate and hope, later. This Christmas will be the first I spend with any of my family since I started my transition. I hope that we can bring each other as much, or even more, happiness than we did during my August visit--my first since "coming out." Mom says my visit seemed to lift Dad out of a bit of a depression. Imagine that: Me, making my father happy. Now you know why, in spite of my lack of religiosity, I still believe in miracles.

Well, OK, I'm overstating things a bit. Somehow I knew that he had it in him to accept me for who I am, though I am still surprised to the degree to which he's done that. And Mom--well, she always knew that what I needed wasn't always what other people wanted from, or hoped for, me. And she's spoken up for me to a brother and others who won't speak to me. So it was never a question of whether she loved, or would accept, me.

Which leads me to wonder...All of those cheerless, shell-shocked and world-weary people I've been seeing: When weren't they that way? Of course, as I've never seen most of them before (and probably never will), if I hold any image of them in my mind, it will be of the moue so many of them wore. But I also know--or, at least I can fairly safely assume--that a few months, maybe even only a few days, ago some, if not most, of them were not as I saw them today. Were they among those people who looked ahead and saw nothing but unending progress, or at least increases in the agreed-upon values of whatever they owned? Were they not worried about jobs, families or those other things they hold, and that hold them, together?

So many of the people I saw today looked as if they were ready to retreat into caves and wait this--or something else--out. I noticed it this week at school, too. Of course, the semester is nearing its end. And the cold weather and gray skies we've had almost without interruption can make anybody drowsy, no matter how much he or she imbibes at Starbuck's (assuming, of course, he or she can still afford it).

When I was a kid and I saw all those photos of the 1929 stock market crash and the Depression, it seemed as if skies were always gray, or graying. As I have some imagination and knowledge of photography, I don't think it's only because of those black-and-white images. Of course, I'm sure that the mood of the times influenced photographers to shoot and edit in a way that reflected the way things felt, much as Picasso had his "blue" period.

Still, I wonder--against what my intellect tells--whether the weather induced a bearish mood in investors as well as other people. Or whether people were unhappy. Then again, that time is called "The Depression," isn't it?

Does this mean I am suffering from extreme cognitive dissonance for looking ahead and feeling optimistic, at least about some things (beginning with my planned visit and surgery)? Minds much greater than mine, such as Randy Pausch, have said that sometimes a little cognitive dissonance isn't such a bad thing.

Happy as I am, I have to admit that after running some errands and having lunch, I felt sleepy this afternoon. On the other hand, I have had to catch up on my sleep on other Saturdays this semester, so I guess that doesn't mean anything.

I don't want to forget how to empathise. But, even though the thought of hibernation on cold, gray, wet days is appealing, I really don't want to be a bear. I was one for too long.