A lot of what has gotten me through the hard times is laughter. I really think that there is almost always something funny to be found. Call it dark humor, irony, whatever but acknowledge that there’s funny stuff even in the most difficult situations.
Erma Bombeck totally got this. Two of my favorite Erma quotes ( but it’s sooooo hard to pick just two! Just read her books. Quote the whole book.) are:
There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt. ~ Erma Bombeck
If you can’t make it better you can laugh at it. ~ Erma Bombeck
That is solid information right there. Write it, print it, tattoo it somewhere. Laughing is good even when you’re down. Especially when you’re down.
Sometimes you’ve got to come at the situation from a different angle to find the funny. A good belly laugh won’t cure the problem but it’ll make you feel 10 times better, if only for a short while.
That’s all easy to say, but when you’re in a tough spot it can be hard to laugh. Situations and feelings that accompany them can be consuming. For me, it’s way easier to turn the problem over and over in my head trying to come up with a solution or an answer for why what’s going on is going on. Other people may rather escape and avoid the issue all together. Looking for the humor can force you to be in the moment or can give you a break from your circumstances. It may sound weird but some of my favorite moments were born in difficult circumstances. Our family is super tight because of our ability to allow ludicrous moments to entertain us.
Around three years ago we went through a really difficult diagnosis. It’s a long story but Kiley, our oldest daughter, had woken at midnight a couple of nights in a row with her heart beating fast and feeling sick to her stomach. The doctor wanted to do an EKG just to rule out heart problems. To our surprise her EKG came back abnormal and on her 15th birthday we went to see a cardiologist. That was at the end of January. By March three of the four kids had been diagnosed with a congenital heart condition called Long QT Syndrome.* We were told the symptoms were fainting, seizure or sudden death.
Isn’t that funny?
Okay, so that part wasn’t funny. There’s not much funny about a heart condition that could potentially kill your children, to tell you the truth. I joined an online support group, though, and the great people I met there helped me put things in perspective. Many of those diagnosed only find out after a family members dies suddenly at a young age, so finding out before anything tragic happened is a mercy. We are extremely fortunate to also be asymptomatic, meaning we don’t even know we have this condition. If that EKG hadn’t shown it we still wouldn’t know. t have anxiety, though, and this was an extremely anxiety-producing diagnosis. Our entire reality had shifted; we had seen life as relatively safe and now it seemed that everything was unsafe because of goofy electrical system issues.
I had to reframe the situation, and I had to show the kids that everything was going to be fine.
I did not do that the day we went to Wal-mart and I had a panic attack. I insisted we find an AED and wanted to call 911.
As I was trying to rip open my shirt Kiley burst out laughing. Like, she spit all over me. Which caused Laurel, who was 13, to do the exact same thing, which caused me to laugh until I cried. I cannot imagine what people thought as the three of us clutched each other while laughing like actual maniacs, tears streaming down our cheeks, jaws frozen in place, stomach muscles cramping.
That was the beginning of the end of anxiety’s hold on me.
I decided laughter was the medicine I needed. Yes, we had a serious condition on our hands. Yes, heart monitors and beta blockers were all part of our lives now. No, we were not dead. It seemed silly to wait around for a heart condition to claim our lives when we had so much living to do. My friend Jenna pragmatically pointed out that one of us could be hit by a car just as quickly as the heart condition could kill us. No day is guaranteed.
Find the truth in your situation:
My husband gave me a pep talk that went kind of like this, “You have to do normal things. No more researching. If this is our thing, then this is our thing. We just have to keep going forward.” That was truth that I needed to hear.
Then he made me take the kids to the dentist, a place of deep humiliation and shame for me because we have cavity prone teeth.
While we were at the dentist’s office, which was an RV because we went to a mobile dental clinic, the sun was shining through the windshield on my face. I felt a huge wave of relief. I was doing something normal and it felt good.
“Mom, I can see your mustache,” Spencer said. He was 9. Nine year old boys have the gift of stating the obvious that often doesn’t need to be stated.
The bus driver and I looked at each other and started laughing, because it was funny and it was true.
Find things to laugh at:
During this period I became a huge Nacho Libre fan. First of all, Jack Black is so funny. Second of all, this movie is so absurdly weird it only gets more comical each time you watch it.
Sometimes when we’re in the middle of a serious situation we forget to take a break from the serious. Breaks are good mentally, physically, and spiritually. After my husband’s dad was killed in a car wreck 8 years ago not much seemed funny. After we got home from the funeral we took the kids to see a movie. I don’t even remember what movie, I just remember that it felt good to think about something else. Nacho Libre was my something else, and kind of still is. Maybe Weird Al Yankovich does it for you, maybe these videos do, or this video from Good Mythical Morning. I don’t know, but I know it’s important to find things to laugh at. no. matter. what.
Be with people who
make help you laugh:
I’ve got to give a shout out to my husband for this because he completely helps me lighten my mood. I can just be so serious. Some of that is my personality, some of it is anxiety. Anxiety makes everything feel serious. Make sure you have people in your life who can lighten your load or maybe poke you in the right spot at the right time. I’m super grateful to have some friends who come through when I need them. I’m also super thankful for texting because it helps me keep in touch with them even while we’re far apart. I remember when I shared the news that we were leaving ministry with my friend, Rachel. She must have sensed my panic through the phone because she responded with “Let me guess: you can already see your family living in boxes behind Wal-Mart.”
That is exactly what I was imagining, actually. I giggled and saw myself from another perspective. I realized I was taking authority away from God and giving it to myself and if she hadn’t sent that text when she did I could have gone down the rabbit hole.
I know that finding the funny isn’t always easy…
and maybe you’re in a situation that requires mourning. I don’t want to take away from that because I believe grieving is just as important as laughing. Even in our sadness, though, laughing can help us get through the difficult moments.
For those in a period where laughing comes easily I pray it comes often.For those that weep, I pray you find joy.