Elvis & Brucie

We had the ’60s channel on the radio the other day. Songs from my youth…. Some of these specialized stations just play non-stop music with occasional reminders of the station to which you’re tuned. The 60’s station sometimes has a D.J. who has interesting comments about the music. Remember “Cousin Brucie?” He still does some shows, still sounds exactly the same, and still refers to his listeners as “cousins.” He’s in his 80’s! He’s been around and does have great stories.

Cousin Brucie and the Cousin Brucie wannabes sometimes take calls from their listeners. Usually calls include requests for a favorite song and often they include some reference to how the callers, my contemporaries, remember listening to “their cousin” or some tune or other 50 or more years ago. Often the songs are dedicated to some special person.

On one particular day, the D.J. took a call from a woman who had a song request. She said: “I’ve had depression for a long time, it’s not too bad right now…” I thought that was an odd comment to make in a casual conversation with a stranger on an international radio program. Then she requested Elvis’ “Blue Christmas.” Just the kind of tune a depressed person needs to hear…

But the thing that really struck me was her comment that she “had depression.” Such is the nature of many conditions, though. People “have” them. I liked to ask people who said they “had” something: “Do you own it?” There was usually a scowl followed by a period of silence. You see, people don’t want to OWN a problem, they want to HAVE a problem.

Ownership, I think, is a better way to think about lots of things. We own our house, we own our car, we own a bunch of stuff. When we own it, we have control over it. We can remodel the house or sell it. We can trade the car in. We can keep the stuff forever, or we can sell it on EBAY, or we can give it away.

Seems to me that thinking of “owning” makes for a lot more options than thinking of “having”. Having seems more static. I sometimes watch the shows about hoarders and “American Pickers.” Hoarders HAVE all kinds of stuff with no control over it. In a sense, the stuff “has” the hoarder. They can’t give up even a dirty, used grocery bag. The Pickers are invited to an old farmstead and find a tailgate from an old pick-up that’s been rusting in the weeds behind the barn for 30 years. They offer an 85 year old guy a couple hundred bucks for the part and he says: “I’d better keep that.” He’s never going to do anything with it, but he HAS it and it has importance to him for some reason. If he was into the idea of ownership, he could have sold it.

Back to the poor lady on the radio…. Judging by her willingness to talk so casually about such a serious condition, it seemed like she was comfortable with it. Imagine, being comfortable living in misery. Such is the nature of many mental health conditions. They are so numbing and incapacitating, that moving away from them, or moving in any sense, can be almost impossible. The condition they “have” is more comfortable than trying something else even though the odds are better than 50-50 that anything else would be better. The condition is like a blanket covering a person’s whole life. The lady has it, has had it, and likely will have it. It’s sort of: “I have it, the doctor says I have it, he even gives me medicine for it and it help a little sometimes….”

Now back to the ownership concept. If she bought into it, she would have options. Of course, one option is to keep it and she may be so used to it she can’t imagine living without it. Still, those other options become possible with ownership. So, she requested Elvis’ “Blue Christmas.” Unfortunately, Frank Sinatra’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” seems like a better choice, but, unfortunately would be wasted on that unfortunate woman. She has what she has and that’s the unfortunate end of the story.