Default Mode

I walk to work. The kids’ school is a few blocks south. A million restaurants are within 10 blocks and/or deliver. Parks are close. You really don’t have to leave your neighborhood in New York City, and we basically don’t. The bottom line…I don’t take the subway too often anymore.

I rode it uptown the other day to meet a friend. It was a long and lonely ride. If you can’t tell yet, I like to observe. So I spent most of my time looking up and down the train car, at everyone’s faces. Every single person looked depressed, really sad, or really angry. I couldn’t tell which.

I started hypothesizing…maybe it is that public transportation is used predominantly for school or work. And most people don’t love school or work. Maybe it’s because this winter is dragging on for so long and people are just sick of it. Maybe it’s because people are mad they have to take the subway and would prefer a taxi.

And it was funny, because as I was thinking about this, I caught a look at my own reflection in the window…and my face looked the exact same way. Sad, depressed, angry, miserable.

On the way back I saw three people who didn’t look miserable. And I smiled, because I finally realized why…they were together.

The default mode for most human beings it seems, is not happiness. It’s not elation. It’s not a bunch of smiles and laughs. It’s not even pleasantness.

To get all those things, you need to be around people that you know or like.  

It’s probably why TV shows are so comforting at times. When you watch a show enough times, you feel like you know those people. You like these people. They become a part of your life to some extent.

What is it about being alone that forces our demeanor into the state that it does? Are we naturally predispositioned to be depressed or sad? I honestly don’t know. Those are questions for psychologists, scientists, and other pursuers of the truth. But I do know that it’s pretty obvious, that when you are sad, or depressed, or angry, you need to connect with people.

Go get dinner with someone.  Or a drink. Or go watch a game with them. Find people that you like being around and put yourself around them. You need to hug someone. Or be hugged. You need a warm smile. And to hear a belly laugh. Hear your own belly laugh. You need a genuine pat on the back when someone tells you that you’re going to be OK. Or a handshake where the person doesn’t let go for an extra second, to subtly let you know that you can lean on their strength. You need to have a friend read your face and ask you what’s wrong. You need to hear their advice, good or bad, on how to get better. You don’t have to take it, you just need to feel that concern that can only come from someone who knows you and cares about you, and is in front of you trying to suggest anything to help you get better. You need to have someone tell you that they are there for you. And that if you call them they’ll come running. Something that doesn’t work over the phone. Because you already need them and they are not there. You don’t have to talk about your problems the whole time, maybe deal with theirs. Being a friend for someone else can be your remedy.

Do anything, talk about anything, as long as it is with someone you like or love. You just need a connection. If you stay by yourself, your default mode will only accentuate the very feeling you’re trying to leave behind.