My wife was reading back through my writings from the past couple of months and she made a very astute observation. She said to me, “Wow. Why does it have to all be so deep and serious? It feels like this writer needs to smile more.” I realized she was absolutely right. The majority of my posts and articles were so deep and straight-laced (pretty much the opposite of my daily persona). My default is a silly, often inappropriate, joke machine. Absolutely nothing makes me feel better than making people laugh. I was struck that many times we simply have no idea who the person is behind the written word, and that this exact situation probably translates in different ways to other people in their work and daily lives. So today, lets talk about why it is so important to lighten up!
You do realize how absolutely hilarious it is to be a human on Earth, right? We are balls of energetic consciousness wrapped in a protective coating of meat, standing on a spinning rock hurtling through space at 67,000 miles per hour. We may have our beliefs, but none of us actually knows what we were before our first breath or what happens after our last. We are here for an average of 20,805 sunrises and sunsets. That is less than a cosmological eye blink. Oh, and there is a giant fireball overhead that is a million times bigger than our planet that we need for Vitamin D; if you stare at it too long you go blind; if you are out in it too long it gives you cancer; but if it isn’t showing you get sad! It is all ridiculous! And yet we tend to waste much of that time worrying or afraid or arguing. You want to make your soul feel lighter and more engaged in the world around you? You want to find meaning in being on the planet at this exact time and what it is all about? Here it is, the big secret: laugh more.
You know the old adage “Laughter is the best medicine”? Well, like most adages that stand the test of time, there is a whole lot of truth in that statement. According to the Mayo Clinic website, laughter enhances the intake of oxygen; stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles; increases the release of endorphins; lowers your heart rate and blood pressure; and aids circulation and muscle relaxation. But I don’t think any of us needs the Mayo Clinic to tell us that laughing makes us feel good.
See a professional
Like I said, I love making people laugh. However, I don’t know that I would enjoy doing it professionally! Stand-up comedians are an odd and amazing subculture to me. These are people who can sit down and write a joke or funny story broad enough to allow a wide audience to identify with it, yet specific enough that the audience believes it is something that actually occurred in the life of the comedian. Comedians are masters of the relatable. They teach us to laugh at ourselves by laughing at them. All while appearing to just be holding a spontaneous conversation with exact timing.
Can you tell I kind of geek out on stand-up comedians? Geeze, reign it in fanboy!
But when my world is at its most difficult and I am struggling to find relief, I turn to the professionals for a break. Great comedians, even just O.K. comedians, can help to put the world back into perspective. And most of the time, isn’t perspective what we are lacking when we feel crushed under the weight of the modern world? What exactly have we ever gained by worrying? As Joe Rogan said, “Maybe we all just need to chill out, have a pot brownie and get on an airplane”. Metaphorically speaking of course. Just relax and find something to think about that blows your mind. As long as there is no ill intent with the joke or prank, let it rip!
Learn to laugh at yourself
Have you ever had one of THOSE days? You overslept so now you are rushing to get back on schedule. As you come bounding out of your bedroom trying to get dressed while moving; you are trying to direct your sloth-speed children to hurry up before they are late for school; coral the dog so you can take him out before leaving; and then your foot finds the Lego in the hallway that you asked to be picked up the night before! This is the moment. You have a choice. If you could just pause time right there and think it through! But instead it all comes down to emotional reflex. Either you have trained yourself to devolve into nuclear meltdown mode, usually including a long and colorful stream of obscenities aimed nowhere in particular, or you have trained yourself to stop and look at yourself from the outside. How hilarious is the scene you are currently living through at that moment! If you were watching this unfold on a screen, would you be laughing?
Funny is funny whether it is happening to you or someone else. It is ok to see the humor. It is ok to laugh at yourself. No amount of worrying or hurrying is going to make you go back in time so you can wake up earlier. So chuckle it up buttercup. All the world is a stage and we are merely players.
Go ahead and be silly or goofy. It is the mental equivalent of shaking out your arms and legs to get the blood flowing. And, interestingly, the more responsibility you have, the more you need to laugh. Case in point: parenthood.
Parents are supposed to be serious…ly funny
Is there anything more jarring or initially more frightening than becoming a first-time parent? No. When I first realized that my wife and I were solely responsible for keeping a defenseless human alive AND to make sure it has everything it needs at all times AND to raise it to be a fully functional member of society, the sense of panic was overwhelming. I mean, the week before I had absent-mindedly put my car keys in the freezer and then spent a full day looking for them. And now a human was going to depend on me for literally everything? Obviously there had been some mistake. How did I qualify for this? I did not remember taking any kind of skills test to be a dad. I mean, I didn’t even change my own engine oil!
But one of the greatest gifts that becoming a parent can bestow on us is the realization that no human is an expert on being a human – we are all just trying to do the best we can. And there are a huge number of times we are going to seem like morons doing it. Have you ever tried to put zip-up jammies on a wriggling, still kinda wet from the tub, 3 year old? See. Trust me. That looked hilarious. Have you ever been changing a baby boy’s diaper when he went full sprinkler? Yep. Super funny to watch. But don’t panic parents, our time comes!
What is the number one responsibility of all parents once their children reach age 10? Exactly! Embarrass the crap out of them! Give those kisses when their friends are watching. Put that funny picture you have kept all these years on their 18th birthday cake. Walk with a fake exaggerated limp all the way through Walmart while loudly singing Whitney Houston’s version of “I Will Always Love You” at them because they picked on your singing in the car.
Or maybe you get a good deal on a bunch of blood capsules. You wait until both of your children (ages 8 and 11) are in one bedroom together playing. You ask your wife to get into the fetal position in the hallway and scream when you say “go”. Crouch over the love of your life, say go, bite the capsules and let the stage blood run. When you hear the door open to see what was going on, you turn and rush toward those kids snarling with your mouth wide. Watch them totally freak out and slam the door in your face. What? Just me? I don’t think it caused any major emotional trauma, but holy hell was it funny!
In The End
The point is, laughter, lightness, and fun is what makes life worth living. Those moments when you can see the preposterous locked inside the mundane are magical. We dare not ever let our humor be lost to the gravity of our being. At the end of our time on this plain of existence, do we want to reflect on all of the times we were staunch and serious? Do we really want the size of our bank account to be our legacy? Or do you want to be flooded with memories of laughter, walking through pain to find the funny, calling out the preposterous and showing its true face, and the sound of a loved one’s joy as they laugh beside you? Would you rather leave your children with a trust fund or a positive and, happy and optimistic outlook on life? As for me, I will always choose the lightness of laughter. I will forever err on the side of fun. And I hope you all will do the same. Because life is funny when you think about it.