Sunday, November 22, 2009

Laughing Alone

I’m always talking about how beneficial laughter is…how it releases mood enhancing chemicals into our bodies, changes our perspectives and generally turns the seemingly unbearable into not such a big deal, after all. Laughter is amazing, and I’ve spent a good portion of my adult life trying to share those marvelous benefits with others.

I’m not only a teacher of the magical properties of glee, though—I’m a student. I discovered first-hand what a difference shared giggles could make to my existence. Laughter and the ability to look for--and find--the humor in most situations, has saved my life. And--if I’m to be honest—it has saved my sanity, too.

But what happens when something is wrong, and there is no one to laugh with? What happens when you have a problem that you can’t talk about, that you can’t share? What do you do when you really, truly need to laugh…need to cry and scream first, but need then to close it out with a bit of hilarity? A little sarcasm, or self-deprecation, or a touch of irony?

How do you laugh when you feel alone?

Shared laughter is the best, without a doubt. But I believe that an emotionally competent person needs to be able to self-heal, too. Face it. We can’t always be lifted up by others. In a perfect world, that would be possible. But this old world is far from perfect. And we need to take care of ourselves because, ultimately, I am the only person I can depend on, and you are the only person you can depend on. Ultimately, it is up to us to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and start all over again.

I have been in a foul mood for three days. Mad, yes. Sad… a bit. Down in the dumps? Try a New York City garbage barge! Grumpy, depressed, bummed out. That was me. Mrs. Grins was nothing but a great big grumble!

I blame a man, of course. Heh. See? I feel better, already!!!

Aw, a man wasn’t the original problem…but a man could have made it better. A man could have been attentive, supportive…he could have given me a few moments of his time and consideration, and the whole three day grizzle-fest could have been avoided. Or at least…alleviated.

But, no. He was too self-involved and self-important to put forth the effort to make someone else feel good.

They really can be dillweeds, you know?

But I am Karen Bessey Pease! Author of excellent young adult fiction and a superbly written newspaper column! I make people laugh every day…and if I can do that, then I could surely find a way to lift myself out of the doldrums! Right???


So, how did I do it, you ask? Well, I started by looking at photographs last night. Pictures of peaceful scenes from here at home on The F.A.R.M., and others I’ve taken around the neighborhood and the state of Maine, at large. I pulled out photos of friends…cherished people that I have shared laughter with, in the past. Some of the pictures were uplifting simply because of the smiles on the faces of the people caught by the lens. Some brought a grin for the memories they induced. One caused a chuckle, because the photo inspired a scene in one of the sequels I’ve written for Grumble Bluff.

Have you ever seen the facial expression of someone who is considering the option of sea-sickness? Oh, I felt empathy, all right. But standing a safe distance away, I could also feel a whole boatload of mirth!

Those photos were enough, last night. They eased a burden that had been pressing on my diaphragm, keeping me from drawing a free and easy breath.

But I wasn’t in the clear, yet. I was still a little grumpy this morning…still a mite dejected. I was simply not back to my carefree, fun-loving self. And that’s never good. One of the worst things about a foul mood is its contagious properties. If I bark, if I am snippety, if I lose my cool and say something unkind, then my whole household suffers. My mood is transferred post-haste from me to my husband and children. And that’s never good. If I’m feeling pithy or pithed off, I want to keep it all to myself, and not suffer the guilt of infecting the rest of the Grumbles with my murk.

I’m selfish, that way.

So! It was time for Round Two of my self-induced therapy! I graduated from photographs to the written word!

It’s most likely a bit conceited of me to say that I think I’m funny. But…I do. And this afternoon, when I made myself stop working on my assigned tasks for an hour, I opened my ‘documents’ file on the computer. There, at my fingertips, were several hundred columns, letters and poems that I’ve written over the years. Many of them are unrecognizable by the titles I gave them, so when I opened them, they were a surprise. But unwittingly, I opened some doozies!

I write about real life. Real life that is sometimes embellished or exaggerated…for I am a simple woman and my life is not very exciting. But that ability to find the humor in the mundane, the idiotic and the pathetic is what this writer—this woman—is all about. If I have any kind of legacy to leave, I hope that is it.

I trolled through the files, reading about a husband who picked up a dog turd that he thought was a rock. I read about a son speaking into a wall-mounted box of utility knife blades, thinking it was an intercom. I perused a story of a daughter who would only eat honey when she discovered it was bee SPIT instead of bee POOP. I was reminded of a dog who could pick up stones in his viscous drool. A mother who has never farted. And aunt who unknowingly hit a chicken with her car and drove fifteen miles with it squawking and flapping in the grill of her car. (She thought she was incredibly popular, so many people waved to her that day!)

And I read about a burly woman who got stuck in her seat at Fenway Park and single-handedly screwed up a 'wave'.

And lastly, I read the FOASS letter.

That is one document that I did NOT write. I was the recipient, instead. The FOASS letter is the most insulting and loving letter I have ever received. It was written by a friend…a friend who called me every name in the book, and then some. A friend who knew me well enough to know that I would take it in the spirit it was intended. A pal who knew that I would be uplifted by foul words and rudeness, because I would recognize that only a true friend, only a best friend, could tell it to me like it was and be secure in the fact that I would understand the sentiment within.

Relationships evolve. They change. We all know that. When we are young and naïve, we think that the first blush of infatuation will always exist. We believe that an intimate friend will always be nearby--giving us an ear, a shoulder, a hand. But as we mature, we realize that each relationship has a honeymoon phase. Sometimes the relationship grows and strengthens and the bond is made fast. Sometimes events and other people get in the way, and the connection stretches and thins. Occasionally, it even breaks. That is one of the vagaries of life. Nothing ever stays the same.

But I have the stories of life on The F.A.R.M. I have the photos, the poems, and the old columns. And I have the FOASS letter. Right at my fingertips, so I can pull up a little self-imposed therapy… a little laughter, a bit of self-deprecation, and a smidgen of irony.

Life can be tough. But laughter can always, always make it a bearable journey. And quite often, it can make it a hell of a ride!

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