Being able to laugh at yourself or at life is, in my opinion, a gift. Difficult or embarrassing situations are a lot easier to swallow if they are flavored with laughter. I don’t mean to suggest that not being able to laugh at difficult situations is somehow a shortcoming. I’ve been convinced over the years that pain is a relative thing. When you are there it is hard to be objective. And, I am fully aware that sometimes laughing and often under reacting is not a healthy defense mechanism. Some things are just not meant to be laughed about. I am aware that I need to be on guard and sensitive towards others feelings. But, often I find my self coping with life through laughter.
For the purpose of this article, (my entertainment) I’ve divided situations into three categories; embarrassing, difficult, and OMG what do you do with this? Let me share some of my favorite laughing at life moments.
In my early 20’s, I went on my first trip to Washington, DC. I was treated to a guided tour by my Aunt and Uncle who lived and had worked there during the 60’s. In fact, my Aunt says Bobby Kennedy once sat on her desk! In preparation, I bought some new summer outfits including a beautiful pair of leather sandals. We had a wonderful day exploring monuments and my favorite; museums. They had to drag me away from Dolly Madison’s shoes in the Smithsonian. There was no time to get lost in historical revelry when there was so much more to see! On our way to the Capitol, it began to rain. Luckily, we were prepared with those folded up to the size of an envelope plastic raincoats. I remember talking about the beauty of the building as we walked through the rain and unavoidable puddles to the Capitol’s steps. We had reached the top and walked inside to face the guards at the door when my new expensive leather sandals fell apart. They literally fell to pieces.
I’m not sure what the appropriate response would be in this scenario. But, I chose to attempt humor. “I suppose you’ve seen everything now?” I quipped to the guards. No response. Not even a smile. Needless to say they would not let us enter bare-footing. Our sightseeing trip had been prematurely cut short. But, my embarrassment was not. We had to trek our way back to the train. I continued to try and make light of the situation, despite seeing my Aunt’s red and obviously embarrassed face. I mean really who does this happen too?!
I went to college as an adult. As my husband predicted, I was a sponge who soaked up every bit of knowledge I could. I was never afraid to take on different or difficult assignments because I loved the intellectual challenge! College and learning was fun! So, when the most challenging literature prof proffered a list of books for reading and then analyzing, I of course chose the oldest and most obscure on the list. I went to the campus library and checked out the novel which to my surprise hadn’t been checked out in some twenty plus years. The cover and it’s yellowed pages fairly reeked of disuse. I loved it! And, evidently so did our new puppy.
I came home one afternoon to find my living room littered with shreds of yellowed and obscure literature. Please understand this was pre “Just go to the internet and find a copy”. I had a paper due and I didn’t have the book it was supposed to be written about! What to do? What to do? Difficult. I decided to gather the book into a garbage bag and take it to class as proof that the dog had indeed “ate my homework”. I approached my professor, explained and offered him the contents of the bag should he desire to see the complete destruction. In a voice devoid of emotion he asked, “What kind of dog is it?” My response? “A literary critic?” His response? Nothing. You’d have thought I would have least gotten a chuckle. Secretly, I believe he probably couldn’t wait to get to the faculty lounge.
OMG WHAT DO YOU DO WITH THIS?:
My last example is proof that the coping mechanism of laughing inappropriately can be a familial issue. My nephew had a very long battle with an infection that resulted in the loss of his leg above the knee. He spent months in the hospital and faced pain and disappointment over and over again. When he was finally released, the family went to Olive Garden to celebrate. During dinner, someone dropped and broke a glass. When the waiter came to clean the broken glass my nephew said, in an OBVIOUSLY relieved tone of voice, ” Thank God you’re here! Someone could have lost a leg!”
To add insult to injury, my sister’s husband went to the parking lot for a smoke and had a stroke and they ended up back at the hospital. My sister thought the irony was hilarious.
I know we are not alone in our inappropriate laughter. I’ve heard from other folks whose families have gotten through a lot of stuff…by laughing.at life.