By Alejandro Grattan-Dominguez
Melancholy In Mexico

     Strange as it may seem, there are many in the ex-pat community here in the so-called “Paradise” of Mexico who go through long, sometimes severe bouts of depression. The causes are as varied as the people who have the symptoms, yet somewhat different from those usually encountered north of the border.
     Depression is often caused by stress brought on by financial insecurity, dissatisfaction with our job, domestic strife, health problems, trouble with our children and that most common malaise best expressed by the song, “Is That All There Is?”
     But here in Mexico, many of those worries soon evaporate. Either time, climate or new challenges put our previous woes into a more pleasing perspective...or we simply make peace with our past. But not all of us are so lucky.
     Recently, a good friend confessed to a case of the blues that he couldn’t seem to shake. Yet, on the surface my friend “Michael” doesn’t have a worry in the world. A successful advertising executive in New York, he took an early retirement and now has a pension well beyond that of most people in our community. Moreover, Michael is in excellent health, lives within his ample means and is considered highly attractive by most women. So what’s the problem?
     In a nutshell, he is suffering from what might loosely be called “buyer’s remorse.” Having bought too heavily into the myth of Mexico, he came south expecting more than the country (or any country, for that matter) could reasonably deliver. Here he hoped to find a woman who could warm his so-called golden years, as well as discover an outlet for his still prodigious energy.
     I don’t know what Sigmund Freud might say about this case, but my own “diagnosis” is that the first objective was ill-founded, and his failure with the second his own fault. As for the former, any man who thinks a love-partner can shake him out of his doldrums is kidding himself. Remember that story about the man who waited years for the phone call that was to change his life for the better? And when it finally came, it was only himself on the other end of the line.
     I knew when first coming to live here that I would need not a partner, but to keep myself occupied with creative, soul-satisfying endeavors. Knowing how seductive the lassitude of Mexico can be, I was aware that otherwise I could easily become just another sad soul sitting around a cantina at eleven o’clock in the morning, drinking myself to death while I bored everyone silly by extolling the would-be virtues of the “good old days.”
     So, after what had been a long and often shaky career as a screenwriter/director, I ventured to Mexico to try and write a novel. My seventh book will soon be out, and this new-found career as a novelist, along with my job at the Ojo, the congenial company of about a dozen good pals (male and female), and more household pets than I care to count, have rounded off most of the rough edges of my existence.
     My friend, not quite so lucky, is thinking about returning to New York. And maybe he’s right to do so, for perhaps he retired too early. But he must find a place to channel his personality, a new method to express himself, and thereby reaffirm his individuality. Dante once wrote that the worst fate that can befall anyone is for them to totally lose their sense of themselves and then have no way of regaining it. But each of us must reclaim it in our own way, in our own time.
     Meanwhile, I wait, watch and hope my witty, warm-hearted friend finds his way out of the dark. It would be a pity if a man who has brought joy to so many others is unable to find it again himself.