How Can I Keep From Singing?

I once read that Michele Obama insisted Medicare require doctors to ask their patients if they are depressed. Whether that’s true or not, my doctor recently asked me the question in three different ways.

“Are you depressed?”

“No.” I wasn’t at that moment.

“Are you sleeping?”


“Are you socializing?”


Socializing is not a word I use. I join friends for choir practice, writing classes and lunch, but I rarely go out at night except to public meetings and author talks, not exactly social. And I’d always rather be in bed.

Ok. I socialize. I just don’t want to socialize since I am, well, depressed. There’s a web dangling overhead that periodically ensnares me. I have to shake its silky mess from my psyche before the new normal sticks me with its venom.

I asked the doctor if a lot of people are depressed.

“Everyone I see. Everyone my colleagues see,” she answered. “Careful you don’t look to yourself for a reason for your depression,“ she said. “The reason is trumpism.”

 Oh. That.

Choir director Jonathan Miller never utters a word about politics. But I can tell he’s picked up the scent of this national stink by the songs he picks for our choir. Our song index for the spring concert includes Waitin’ for the Light to Shine, What a Wonderful World, The Storm Is Passing Over, Bridge Over Troubled Water and How Can I Keep from Singing?

Roger Miller of Dang Me fame (and a depressive himself) wrote the score for the Broadway play, Big River, an adaptation of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Huck Finn walks around in the dark singing Waitin’ for the Light to Shine lamenting his thcircumstances and wishing he could find meaning to his life. When he returns home, his father, a violent drunk, drags him off to the woods and tries to kill him. The poor kid escapes down the Big River, never to return.

This is my fear. I’m afraid a deranged president is attempting to psychologically murder me and there’s no escape. The fear is mutating and causing havoc like the coronavirus. It shape shifts itself into depressed, suspicious, angry, aggressive people. And they’re multiplying. They’re on the bus, at the checkout counter, on the condo board and sitting next to me at the movies. All of America needs to find the escape hatch and flee downriver with Huck Finn.

“How do you feel when you get up in the morning?” The doctor asked.

Hopeless. I need about fifteen minutes of constant prayer to catch the hope I need to get out of bed. It eventually floats through my thoughts in song.Untitled

You may think the song How Can I Keep From Singing doesn’t exactly fit into the buck-up category represented in my choir’s repertoire since the lyrics contain words like lamentation, tumult and strife. But Jonathan Miller added his own lyrics describing a choir as a healing balm. My hope is whenever trumpism churns my stomach, I remember to take the cure. 

How can I not keep singing?


Sing Along with President Jeb Bartlett: How Can I Keep From Singing