Tuesday, April 09, 2013

“Let It Go. Forget About It. Try Smiling.”

Today I’m going to do something I’ve never done before here at the blog. I’m going to embed an entire episode from an old TV show.

Here’s why.

Today I kind of survived a weird moment that was—and I haven’t gotten an opinion from a psychiatrist about this but it seems like a safe assessment—today I survived a weird moment that was something like a flash of temporary insanity.

Here’s what happened.

The weather here around Chicago has been reasonably nice lately. We’ve had a couple of really warm days, near 70. So for a couple of days—finally!—it has really felt like Spring. That beautiful warmth to the breeze. Even a beautiful scent to the air.

Spring always makes me feel energetic. It makes me want to do stuff.

First of all, I devoted a few hours this afternoon to Spring cleaning. I moved everything around, vacuumed everything, wiped down the walls, wiped off the furniture. All that stuff. Everything’s clean, moved around, refreshed.

After I vacuumed and did all the cleaning and stuff, I still had all my belongings—all of my worldly goods, as the saying goes—I had all of my belongings bunched up, gathered together for easy moving around.

And then I felt this urge.

It was a really strong urge.

Instead of putting everything back, instead of moving everything back to where it belonged, I had this urge to put everything in my car and just drive away.

Disappear into the wilds of the twenty-first century.

It was a really strong urge.

I’m guessing the urge had a lot to do with Spring, and the nice weather. And also April is a very cool month to me because I started this blog in April seven years ago.

Next week on April 17th it will be my blogging anniversary.

Seven full years here.

And, also, the world seems to be going to hell. The internet seems to be going to hell.

It seems like a really good time to disappear into the wilds of the twenty-first century.

But I didn’t do it. I fought through the impulse generally because I know I’m a person with what’s called poor impulse control. Many, many times things have felt like a good idea, at the time, and I’ve realized, later, it was something like a kind of weird fugue state, or rather something like a near-fugue state.

So I’ve learned to step back, a little, from wild and crazy urges.

And one of the ways I dealt with the urge, one of the techniques I used to put some time around myself, to let myself think rather than just reacting to the urge, was to think about stories. To think about fiction.

To think about the alternate reality of a fantasy world.

For me, fantasy life is often built around characters and stories from good old TV shows and in regards to people acting on impulse—and acting crazy!—my favorite old TV show and characters are the stories from the old TV show called “Newhart,” which was on in the late 80s, and featured a young crazy guy character named Michael Harris and his crazy young girlfriend character named Stephanie Vanderkellen.

In one particular story arc, Michael and Stephanie break up and Michael goes crazy.

A psychiatrist later describes his episode as an acute anxiety attack, but Michael quits his job, burns a lot of career bridges and ends up locked away in a sanitarium (because he tries to earn a living as a mime and one evening sees Stephanie with another man and creates a giant unpleasant scene in a fancy restaurant).

I loved that TV show, loved those characters.

So this afternoon I thought to myself, well, remember Michael Harris—he acted impulsively and although he ended up marrying the beautiful woman of his dreams, that was a TV show. In real life if you act impulsively, you usually end up paying an unpleasant price, a price far out-of-proportion often to whatever impulse originally caused you to act.

But at that point I was thinking, then, about the story arc of Michael getting locked up in the sanitarium. When Michael gets released, he is very happy to be free, but his life is still a shambles, but he’s such an idiot he doesn’t care. When friends ask him what he’s going to do to earn a living and such, he eventually starts saying, “Let it go. Forget about it. Try smiling.”

And the people of the small town embrace that new age mumbo-jumbo of a message. Michael becomes a guru to the whole town.

(Eventually the townsfolk who try to live by the advice have awful episodes in their own life and end up abandoning Michael as a false prophet. “Stone him,” one person says. But, eventually, many episodes later, everything works out for Michael because his girlfriend takes him back and they live happily ever after. Like I said: It’s a TV show. They can have happy endings.)

Michael getting his life back together becomes a story arc in itself stretching for quite a few episodes.

Anyway, I got to thinking about that story arc and I didn’t remember the exact words of Michael’s epiphany, so I did a Google search. Instead of getting me to a transcript of the show or to somebody’s blog discussing the old show, the Google search took me to a YouTube link to the complete episode that started the story arc of Michael’s new life, in which Michael first has his epiphany built around, “Let it go. Forget about it. Try smiling.”

So this afternoon I re-watched the show that I hadn’t seen for something like twenty-four years. The whole episode is on YouTube without commercials.

And it was every bit as good as I remembered it. It was every bit as funny as I remembered it.

And after I sat around laughing for almost half an hour, instead of feeling any strong urge to just pack my car and drive away, I just moved all my worldly goods back to where they belonged.

It still seems to me that the world is going to hell, that the internet is going to hell, and that this would be a really good time to disappear into the wilds of the twenty-first century.

But I’ve put all my stuff back where it belongs and I’m going to fight it out here a little longer, at least.

If nothing else, little by little, I can check through YouTube now and track down the rest of the episodes in the story arc about Michael getting Stephanie back.

It’s a funny story arc with funny and interesting characters.

If I could figure out a way to twist real life—or, at least, my real life—into something along those lines, a funny story, funny and interesting characters, I bet I wouldn’t feel any urges to disappear into the wilds of the twenty-first century.

I’m going to work on it a while longer.

In the meantime, if you get about twenty minutes of free time, I bet you’ll enjoy watching this. (FYI, the show’s theme song is by Henry Mancini!) Here’s that first episode of the story arc with Michael having his epiphany centered on, “Let it go. Forget about it. Try smiling.”

The episode is called, appropriately enough, Message From Michael”—

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