There is truly nothing like a belly laugh to improve one’s day. Up until this afternoon, it had been a long time since I had cracked up to the point of tears (my tears have been decidedly more negative) and I must say, it felt really good. Perhaps even better (on the titillation scale, anyway) is the fact that the interaction which made me laugh so hard is so over the top, so ridiculous and so laden with just the right amount of grotesquery that I cannot share the specifics*, but suffice to say: I managed to not only draw attention to myself as I cracked up in the coffee shop earlier today, but to my partner in crime (and teller of the insane story) as well. It was awesome.
When in the throes of whatever insanity we happen to be dealing with during any given moment of our lives it is very easy to lose our senses of humor. I am not referring to being funny; in fact, I long ago realized that the worse things are going for me, the funnier I tend to be. My wit increases with my anxiety, my snappy comebacks improve with my depression and my facial reactions become more elastic in keeping with how overwhelmed I am feeling. All of those are sure signs to you, with whom I am interacting, that I am sliding down that slippery slope.
What I am referring to is our ability to laugh at ourselves. It is something that my father used to remind me to do every time he saw me taking myself too seriously (which was often)…it was part of his “everything works out” attitude towards life. Despite his having told me this more times than I could possibly recall, I have not always successfully done as told.
Throughout the past year (yep, it has been almost a year) since my son came to me to tell me that “his whole life he has wanted to be a girl” I have been really funny (that is code for anxious, depressed and overwhelmed) and have, more than once, lost my sense of humor and got caught up in the freaked-outed-ness of the situation. I am not always cognizant of it at the moment it occurs, rather it sneaks in to my head when I am supposed to be asleep at three in the morning, or when I am driving along, minding my own business and suddenly sense the telltale signs of a panic attack coming on. I don’t necessarily make the correlation during those unpleasant moments, but as I sit here now, all calm and collected (which could morph into hysterical and unglued on a dime) it is obvious to me what those moments are really about…I’ve lost my sense of humor.
Very shortly after my snorting, foot-stomping laugh this afternoon, I got a call from my agent. Most of our correspondence this summer has been over email so we spent a few minutes catching up on one another’s warm weather adventures. (Hers are much more exciting than mine. Hell, the cat’s* are more exciting than mine…) As all good mother’s do, she shared how her children were driving her to the brink of insanity with their squabbles and general being kids-ness, “But,” she continued, “I’m not complaining…my daughter doesn’t have a penis.” We both laughed and it was genuine.
Despite “my daughter with a penis” being a phrase that I myself have used (I’m not sure, but I might even be able to take credit for having coined it) there was a time that I would have chuckled on the outside, but literally be nauseated by it on the inside. Even though I have been fairly funny lately (see definition above) I did see the humor in her comment and (or because?) I could almost hear my father reminding me to continue to not take things too seriously. Even the serious stuff.
This all reminds me of a moment with my father while he was in the throes of treatment for Stage IV metastatic lung cancer and needed an emergency MRI. While in the waiting room at a renowned cancer institute, along with a couple dozen equally ill patients, his moxie wearing thin, he elbowed me as I sat next to him and implored me to do something about the wait. (Read: get him to the head of the line, somehow.) I made an exaggerated scan of the room, turned to him and stage whispered, “Dad, I can’t play the cancer card…everyone here has cancer” at which point he, I, and the people on either side of us all burst out laughing. At that moment, none of us had lost our sense of humor and it showed.
It is a good lesson for everyone: the ability to laugh both internally and externally in the face of crappy-ass times in our lives. Trust me when I tell you, based upon my more-than-fair-share of life adventures, the times that I have maintained my true sense of humor and been able to not only laugh at, but appreciate the experience, have yielded the best results. And while none of us can (or should be expected to) maintain this at all times, as long as it is a better than fifty/fifty split I think we are good.
That said, I still reserve the right to get caught up in my challenges and lose the faith, but no more than fifty percent of the time. It is at those moments that you should feel free to remind me that I can do this and to see the humor in it all.
*Don’t ask me. I will not tell, mostly because it is so over the top, ridiculous and laden with grotesquery that I don’t think I would even be able to repeat it. That includes you, RRL.
**Update on cat who was on the skids just a few days ago: aside from a quick barf earlier today, seems to be completely healed.