Perhaps the greatest gift that humor gives us is to be able to laugh at ourselves.
Laughter, if just for a moment, takes the edge off the seriousness of death and tragedy, expands our world view, and more than anything else allows us to let go of our inflated self-image, our bloated pride and self-importance.
Laughter clears the playing field, reduces levels of stress and gives our body the boost it needs to help fight off the effects of depression and loneliness.
When we take off the rose colored glasses, we stop embellishing or diminishing ourselves through impractical comparisons, and realize that we are all God’s creatures subject to both humor and divine intervention. When we stop taking ourselves so seriously, we are able to laugh at the flawed parts of our nature while celebrating the parts that give rise to creative energy.
Stress is very subjective. Perception is both the creation of stress and what we will do with it. It is both personal and unique. What stresses you out may not stress me at all.
Any life event, major or minor, can become a cause of dis-stress. It can be an on-going source of irritation and even victimization. It can also be the beginning of an off-repeated humorous story. Can we take events and turn them into something we can laugh at for decades?
Years ago in a speech I gave on stress to a group of teachers in the U.K. I shared one of the stories my father-in-law told our kids about when he was a kid. Their much loved Grandpa Bert was an easy-going guy, with seemingly not a care in the world who drove my mother-in-law crazy. As a kid he attended a small, rural school.
Now Bert was not a student of academia – in fact he hated sitting in the classroom. During recess while other kids were busy jumping rope or throwing ball, he was busy exploring the tall grass around the little country school, looking for wonderful things such as bugs, worms, caterpillars, frogs – you name it.
“When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on. And swing!” Leo Buscaglia
When was the last time you laughed – really laughed – until the tears rolled down your cheeks, your sides hurt and you gasped for air? You laughed and laughed and didn’t want to stop.
Something tickled your funny bone so that in an instant you saw the world differently – your situation was so bad, it was funny – your problem so profound, it was laughable – the ludicrous became the comical. The world had turned upside down and you laughed as you swung in the absurdity of the moment.
“The crisis of today is the joke of tomorrow.” H. G. Wells
What precipitated that laughter? How did it change how you felt about your world, your situation, yourself? How did it change the minutes and hours afterwards?
“Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.” Mark Twain
Every day we have the opportunity to begin again – to start over – to write a new chapter in our life story.
We can choose to find solutions instead of dwelling on the insolvability of problems.
We can focus on all our blessings instead of all the things we think we have to have.
We can focus on love instead of hate – laughter instead of crying. We choose our focus.
Love, Laughter and Grace
Every day we are graced with a new beginning. Within each day we can purposefully look for the grace of God in our pain, make a decision to laugh in the midst of our struggles and accept God’s gift of love and then apply it throughout the day.
Every once in a while a door opens from our past and allows us to revisit friends and colleagues and experience once again good times from an earlier period in our life even if it is at an otherwise sad occasion.
One of my husband’s college band students had died and I went to Portland over the weekend to attend the memorial service. It was soon evident that this was more than just a memorial – it was a celebration of this talented young man’s life: by family, peers, and past teachers. CCC band Hawaii 002 001
Musicians have a camaraderie and bond shared in their love and expression of music. Mark was an excellent trumpet player, band teacher and administrator. In commemoration of Mark’s life in music, a group of 10-12 musicians played at the beginning and middle of the memorial service.
LeRoy’s band 001At the reception afterwards, 17 jazz musicians formed a band and played the music they loved: the big band sounds of the 40’s and 50’s. It was a celebration of the love they share as musicians. They played for the joy of it in the moment and in remembrance of those no longer with us.
In last week’s blog, “I want to do it all”, I mentioned 3 things to consider when picking and choosing between the things you want to do and are required to do. Becoming flexible allows you to handle additional but temporary responsibilities.Identifying and eliminating time wasters gives us the advantage of effectively scheduling our work week to include both rest and relaxation and projects that feed the soul.
A piece of driftwood will drift down a stream at the mercy of the current, wind and waves. We often live our lives like a piece of driftwood, at the mercy of the winds and currents of life, reacting to whatever is happening instead of proactively accomplishing objectives.
Much of the distress we experience in life comes not just from becoming overwhelmed with time pressure and unreasonable expectations; but feeling we have little control over anything, especially our time.
I want to do it all! I want to travel, sing and dance, write and give workshops, teach, have time for friends, read a book every day, entertain, have long conversations with good friends, etc, etc, etc.
However, I soon find myself at odds with time. There are only so many hours in a day after all and unless I can somehow come to terms with what I am able to do each day, I will soon become dis-stressed.
Since I had made the decision long ago to avoid harmful stress, the choices I make are important. While I can’t control events, I am the one who chooses to be in charge of my life. That includes how I choose to respond to events and circumstances.
So then – how do we choose between all the things we want to do?