“I know why we laugh. We laugh because it hurts, and it’s the only thing to make it stop hurting.” ― Robert A. Heinlein
“I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it’s the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It’s probably the most important thing in a person.” ― Audrey Hepburn
The past few months I’ve found myself questioning my behavior. There has been a lot of tragedy in the world while political and cultural wars erode our humanity and equality; most of it feels like it’s outside of my control or influence, or my awareness of it has simply become keener; my ability to remain in denial, diminished. Recently, I am more apt to rage against the machine and see the glass half empty, rather than look to what is good in the world that fills the glass ―and my heart ― full. This is uncharacteristic for me.
On the flip side ― and I’m always grateful when I can find another way to look at things ― laughter has been that healing balm. When I’m able to find the irony or humor in a situation or my response, I find relief and often a new perspective, and most importantly, hope.
As a memoir-writer and poet, I often explore issues and emotions by reflecting on my past and employ what I’ve learned along my journey to navigate what’s next. I continue to work on a memoir entitled, Perfectly Flawed, which is my personal story, yet includes a cast of characters and loved ones ― my family, romantic partners and people who I’ve encountered on my journey. I often threatened my family while growing up (playfully, of course) that I would write our story.
Recently, a series of events happening to a family member has sparked a firestorm of family dynamics and reactions. I’ve often stated in these essays that I don’t believe in dysfunctional families, that instead, I believe every family is both dysfunctional and functional in different areas and to different degrees. How we individually react to stress and fear and express our love creates the family drama.
I’ve decided after weighing all the pros and cons and examining the responsibility of writing about loved ones who are living ― who may also see our shared story differently than me ― I need to write a second piece, a play or screenplay, perhaps fictional, based on true events as they say in the movies. Towards that end, I’m outlining a story, When All Else Fails― Laugh: A Fictionalized True Story, or When a Memoir Goes Off the Rails.
Without sharing too many personal details of an anonymous family member’s health, just when we thought she was on the mend, a new twist occurred. She began having imaginary conversations and encounters with family members, near and far, she described them as “episodes.” They were very real to her of course and scary and concerning to those who love her. The episodes were vivid and like a serial drama, storylines picked up where they left off days later. When she was lucid, she could remember the visions which were palpable. Gratefully, in between the episodes, she had a clear sense of what was real and what was not.
So, where does laughter come in to this scenario? For me it’s a relief to laugh. If I’m able to find the humor in tragedy or laugh at the amorphous fear that disables me, it diminishes the power of things or people I can’t control. I equally embrace the importance of leaning into my grief and sadness and experience the healing power of tears to dilute and release toxins and help with the letting go.
One of the many things I am grateful for ― a gift from my family ― is our ability to laugh. We have a rich tradition of telling stories, learned by listening to the generations that preceded us, who shared their oral history and were able to laugh both at themselves and the world around them.
It’s not that we don’t take things seriously, or ignore the tragedies in our lives, the people we’ve lost and the pain and betrayals we’ve encountered, instead, first we cry, then we laugh, then we move on buoyed by hope and our love and support of and for each other.
Have a laugh on me: