I'm starting to think that my mood is a little too easy to influence.
My last post mentioned how, even in a happy mood, I can be brought back down if I get caught in a smoker's puff of smoke, so when I thought about it some more I started to recall a few more examples where my mood might have been nudged in a certain direction, whether I wanted it to go that way or not.
The best examples, or the examples with the most witnesses, were whenever I watched some movies that really stuck with me. The first one I could think of was The Sixth Sense. When I got hit with that bomb of a plot-twist at the end, my mind was blown. I watched that one with my family and I remember being quiet the whole ride back home from the cinema, mouth agape at what I had just seen. Even when we got home, I lay on the floor of my room, staring at the ceiling and still thinking 'whoa' for the remainder of the evening.
More recently, watching movies with then-current-and-former workmates, I remember coming out of the theatre after The Dark Knight and wanting to impart some vigilante justice. When the group of us gathered outside the theatre afterwards, and one of the guys was being a little bit more of a jerk than usual, the urge to punch him was just so much more intense than usual.
And with the same group of people, we saw WALL-E, which made me stupid happy. I was grinning from ear-to-ear after that movie and felt the need to plant a tree and hug everything.
It's not just movies, but also books. A few years ago I was reading what would become my book, The Wreck of the River of Stars, by Michael Flynn. It's a very melancholy, character-driven story that plays out like a Greek tragedy; misfortunes and misunderstandings at every turn, and things falling apart simply because every character is human: biased, selfish, flawed.
When a bizarre failure disables the Farnsworth engines driving The River of Stars, the crew has a problem no Earthly sailor ever faced: their ports don't stay put. If The River of Stars doesn't arrive on schedule, Jupiter will be somewhere else in its enormous orbit. That means the damaged ship will speed out of the solar system and drift forever among the stars. The crew's only hope appears to be the magnetic sail. But recreating a long-gone high-tech sail isn't the worst problem this motley crew faces. To survive, they must achieve something even more herculean: they must overcome their own intricately entangled fears, hatreds, power struggles, and romantic disasters.
Hope in that story keeps fluttering in and out of reach and for the month it took me to read that book, I found myself in a sombre mood at work, at lunch, at social occasions... I couldn't get myself out of the rut that the characters in that story were experiencing - I shared the roller-coaster ride with the crew of that ship as they struggled to save the ship and, more importantly, themselves.
Given the above, maybe that's why it was so easy for me to blend into the crowd at the Rugby World Cup games, even though I'm not really a big rugby fan or supporter. Hell I could hardly name the members of the All Blacks, but throwing me into the stadium crowd as the games were played, I think it was my emotionally susceptible nature that let me fit in so well there.
I probably should have learned by now that I'm like this, because after the high and euphoria the entire country was in following our rugby victory, I made the mistake of cutting-short that feeling for me by reading a book that was so disturbing that all the love I had for the world, accumulated over the weekend of the Rugby World Cup final, the Simply Ceroc ball, and a part of my birthday month, I lost in an instant.
Elizabeth Scott's Living Dead Girl is a story about "Alice", a 15-year-old girl who was abducted 5 years ago and has endured physical and sexual abuse every day since then at the hands of her kidnapper, Ray.
From one of the reviews on Amazon.com:
He starves her because he doesn't want her to physically mature, he terrorizes her and tells her that he'll kill her parents and burn their house down if she tries to escape. I'm putting "Alice" in parentheses because that is not her real name. It's the name Ray gave her, the same name he gave the girl he kidnapped and killed before he kidnapped the second Alice.
Alice calls herself a "living dead girl." She's numb inside, she's hungry, she's been tortured so much that she wishes for death. She's waiting for it, hoping for it, expecting it any day; but Ray has something different in mind that is even more terrifying to the reader, and he needs Alice's help.
I started reading that book on the first working day after the Rugby World Cup final, borrowing it from the Young Adult section of the library on recommendation of my previous reading history. When I finally put it down, I discovered that I had lost almost 2 hours of work reading this book.
I intentionally didn't pick the book up again for a week. The country is happy, I told myself, everybody is smiling, I have a victory parade to go to tomorrow, I CANNOT put myself into this sort of mood! Not now!
I struggled to keep that book at the back of my mind, but that in itself was the problem: it was at the back of my mind. I eventually got around to finishing the book, and when I did I wanted to call my nieces, meet-up with my friends, and just make sure that everyone I held dear was OK.
Damn my mood swings.