Now that we’ve passed out of summer and into autumn, a strange quiet has settled over my neighborhood and my city, Saint Paul. It’s been raining hard enough to cause an unusual September flood in many parts of the state – a bubble of Gulf of Mexico air has reached this far north and continues to refresh itself. The start of hockey season has been met with temperatures above 70F. Everything seems a bit out of sorts and silently anxious.
Call me a romantic or an idiot, but I think that the weather is always trying to tell us something.
A gentle migraine called me to stare out a window at 1 a.m., waiting for the pressure drop to settle into yet another rainstorm when it came to me. I haven’t had the same kind of random conversations I’ve been reporting for the last year or two lately. The sense of anger and resentment has, generally, started to settle into a pattern of anxiety and contemplation. It’s only a feeling and it’s one of those things that only seems to gel when up far too late, but it seems to be worth repeating.
I believe that, largely by accident, I hit on what was going on back in August. I noticed then that a lot of my friends and acquaintances were suffering from depression (small “d”). With reader help (thanks, Molly!) I surmised, later on in the comments, that we appeared to be working through a kind of grief. My guess is that we’re working through a grief for a way of life that we all know, deep in our hearts, has passed on to a new generation’s way to live and love in more challenging times. The standard sequence of grief runs this way: Shock, Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Testing, Acceptance.
Is it possible that many people are moving on to Testing or even Acceptance?
I’m not normally one for pop psychology. Every individual feels their way through life the best that they can. Yet I can’t help but think that the mood of a culture can be described by some of these standard terms even as they often fail to describe individuals. People are people, yes, but cultures are cultures. I believe that the collective always has its own personality.
This runs as silly as the lampooning we see on the Daily Show and as deep as the voter antipathy that we see in many polls. Anger may make the nooze, but culturally we may have already moved far, far beyond that into a healthier but more cynical place. Where we go from there is hard to say, but hopefully it is on to acceptance.
That’s where our strange late summer comes back into my life. A hard rain usually means warmth in this part of the world, so there are always many ways to look at it. You can let the clouds and water soak into your mood or you can be glad that in between the drops there are some gloriously warm evenings. Sure, winter is coming, but the ambivalence of autumn gets us ready to accept it.
What do you think? I’m not going to call this accurately by myself, so I need your help. Are we working through the cycles of grief? Is anger already “been there, done that” among your friends? Are we finally getting down to the business of getting through it?