07/19/2012 06:14 pm ET | Updated Sep 18, 2012

The Blues-O-Meter

Hey Waldo M'main Man!

You rule! Love what your doin'! You and me are exactly the same because we both want everybody to just cheer up!! What's the big problem?! Just be happy, that's my motto!! What I want to know is, how come people tell me to kiss their asses so much?! Or to just fuck off!?! I told someone yesterday that I was as happy as a lark and he picked me up and tossed me into a broom closet!!? Huh??!! I've received a judo or maybe it was a karate chop in the back of my neck and two separate kicks just for whistling the Andy of Mayberry theme song!! What's with that?? With me the glass is always at least half full, even when it's empty! No, just kidding, but I know you know what I mean!!! My question is, how come when people aren't happy they can't just pop up out of it like you and me do and just try to brighten this dreary ol' world up with our positive attitude and enthusiasm and maybe a little whistling, why not?!?

In Love With Life!!!!!!,

Pauly Anna (Not my real name, but do you get it? Ha ha ha!!)

Dear Pauly,

Why I nearly chewed a hole in my cheek as I read your letter I'm not sure. Nonetheless, I will try to respond to your question by focusing upon what feels at the moment like fresh air: Unhappiness. I'm not talking about good old-fashioned Sorrow, which is a clear and healthy and immediate response to an event you can put your finger on, such as the loss of a loved one or the end of anything lovely. And I'm also not talking about that fly-by-night form of Unhappiness that loop-di-loops in and out upon the whimsy of mood. No, the Unhappiness I'm talking about is the industrial strength brand, the vague and shapeless kind, rooted in nothing and everything, the kind that just settles upon you like mist and enters your pores and your lungs and your hair.

You can pay bright and eloquent and insightful people to analyze your Unhappiness, and with them you may embark upon emotion-packed safaris through the jungles of your past to unearth all kinds of long hidden treasures that may make you gasp with revelation, but all you really have to know is this:


I've underlined the word "think" to underscore the fact that, like most problems, it's all in your head. This is not meant to minimize the problem. It's simply meant to pinpoint the location.

And I'm delighted to announce that I have devised an instrument with which to measure how Unhappy you are. It's called...


That's correct. The Blues-O-Meter. The good news is that everybody has one already. Here's how it works: Please stretch your hands out as wide apart as they will go. This represents the maximum distance between What You Think You Want and What You Think You Have. On your Blues-O-Meter, this indicates your absolute maximum Unhappiness. You have none of the things you want. Your despair is thorough. This, I believe, is uncommon.

And now bring your palms together in front of your chest, as in prayer. This represents the minimum distance between What You Think You Want and What You Think You Have. On the Blues-O-Meter, this indicates no Unhappiness whatsoever. What you want is what you have. Bliss. Also uncommon I believe, Pauly.

And now I'm going to ask everyone on the planet to indicate on their Blues-O-Meters their level of Unhappiness--that is, to indicate with your hands the distance between What You Think You Want and What You Think You Have.

Ok. Good. To those of you spacing your hands at shoulder-width or closer, I say Lucky you. You're doing great. Sure, there's things you want that you don't have, and sometimes you're tired and sometimes you're pissed off and filled with doubt but there's also times when you feel strong and proud and full of life, and even moved by beauty. You know that Unhappiness comes and Unhappiness goes, and that it's as much a part of life as physical pain. And you just wish that tiny bunch with their hands pressed together didn't look so fucking smug. Pauly, are you hearing this?

To those of you spacing your hands beyond the width of your shoulders, indicating serious Unhappiness, I'm going to tell you about a friend I once had. He was handsome and smart and funny, and he played guitar and sang and he loved tennis and Pink Floyd, and his parents loved him and his sisters loved him and I loved him and everyone who really knew him loved him. One day this wonderful guy tore a single sheet of lined notepaper into three smaller pieces, and upon each of those scraps he wrote a few words and then, after he put each short note into addressed stamped envelopes and dropped them into a mailbox, he went into the woods and he put the muzzle of a gun into his mouth and later someone who did not know him found him at around the same time his father and his girlfriend and I were reading his good-bye notes to us.

I'm sure that if I had asked him, there in the woods, to measure his Unhappiness on his Blues-O-Meter, he would have put the gun down and stretched his arms out as wide as they could possibly go, as far apart as some of you have put your hands, indicating that there was nothing, absolutely nothing of The Life He Thought He Wanted in The Life He Thought He Had. At the very least what he wanted was Hope, but apparently there was none to be found.

If I had been with him in the woods as he spread his arms as far apart as they could possibly go, I might have said this: See? Do you see that this Unhappiness of yours, which seems so vast, can be no bigger than you? No greater than your outstretched arms. And look how small you are, how tiny beneath these trees, beneath the huge sky.

Exactly, I imagine him sayingto me, relaxing his arms and then reaching for his gun. Exactly.

And all I'd be left with is this: Wait. Please wait. Please. Name one thing that never changes. One thing. You can't. Because nothing lasts forever. Nothing stays the same. How you feel now will change. This too shall pass. This too. You will want to go to the movies again. You will fall into a book again. You will get lost in a restaurant menu again. You will be choosy about toothpaste again. You will buy something in a store just to get change for the parking meter again. You will be fed up with me again. You will want to live again. You will want to throw guys like Pauly into a broom closet again.

You will. You will. I promise you, you will. Just wait. Wait. Just please wait. Wait. Just please please wait.

Sometimes Unhappiness has nothing to do with choices made. Nothing. And so, Pauly, I recommend you just take it down a notch. You wouldn't go tap-dancing up to someone in a wheel chair and say Look at my feet go!! Wanna learn?! I got extra tap shoes!! What size you wear??

Or maybe you would. C'mon Pauly. Shape up.

Slightly Fed Up With You,

Waldo Mellon