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Laughter is the only medicine

laughingIt can be difficult, if not impossible, to see ourselves as others see us. But the other day, before starting my shift at Shady Brook Farm, I was milling around in the eating area with a few friends, and I laughed at something humorous that passed between us. I might have slapped the table for emphasis…the details are fuzzy. But I do remember for certain that a woman sitting nearby turned her head and gave me a look, as if I’d disturbed her lunch.

I had an epiphany in that moment: Girl, you have a loud, obnoxious, annoying laugh. You are one of those people.

It’s not really surprising that it took me until age 40 to figure that out. I mean, I’ve always had a sense of humor coded into my DNA (thanks, Dad!), but as the Type-A, overachieving, successful-at-everything-until-I-hit-the-real-world, deathly-afraid-to-fail firstborn daughter that I am, I did not loosen the #$%^ up enough to let my wacky side truly run wild until middle age.

THANKS, DAD…

I take after him as much as any child ever has taken after a parent, so he can’t deny the credit and/or blame. While he made me an artist, musicophile (it’s in the Urban Dictionary so it’s a WORD!) and occasional misanthrope who’s brutally hard on herself , my father is also one of the funniest people I know. Finds a joke in everything and everyone. Looks at any situation and sees the absurd or the ridiculous. Never takes himself, or the world around him, too seriously.

That’s me right now. And boy, am I ever thankful for that.

Aside from the love of my family, a sense of humor is pretty much all that’s keeping me afloat.

I realized the other day that since I left my job as a journalist and started working part-time(ish) at Shady Brook while conducting my as-yet-unsuccessful search for a new career path, I have laughed more on a daily basis than I can ever remember. That might be because I see more to laugh at. Not in a making-fun-of-you way, just in a “let’s kid around together” way, even if that means I make “Seinfeld” references that go way over your head because you are 18 years old and your parents might not even have watched that show OR I bust out the occasional double entendre when you’re just trying to buy a pint of ice cream at 7 PM.

“You know you never want to be too early, man,” I said to a guy last week when he, like hundreds of customers before him, inserted his chip before the green prompt light went on in the corner of the credit card machine. “Hey-o!”

(Blank stare.)

So, Mitch Hedberg I am not. The point is, yes, I am one of those people who can’t get serious and keeps disturbing the peace with her guttural guffaws. I found myself a seat in the world’s Peanut Gallery, and I’m not giving it up anytime soon. Unless I have to pee.

Speaking of which, would you be willing to save my seat every 10 minutes from now until eternity?

Maybe humor is an effective coping mechanism in a difficult world. Maybe it’s just a lazy copout by someone who doesn’t want to face reality. Maybe it’s both.

I’m at a time in my life when, if I really sit down and think about where I am and where I’m going – don’t know and don’t have any freaking clue – I start to feel overwhelmed with anxiety and dread. After applying to more than 20 jobs and being rejected more than 20 times, finding reasons to laugh, or even just smile, are crucial to my overall well-being.

They say laughter is the best medicine, but I’d say it’s the only medicine that truly treats my condition.

I’ve been in this unstable mental space before, several times. The overwhelming anxiety, has, on occasion, sent me into a downward spiral of depression that lasted weeks, even months. I’ve been on anti-depressants. I’ve been to therapy. I’ve looked for relief in alcohol, exercise, attention on social media – all drugs, addictive in their own way.

I certainly haven’t gone cold turkey on everything (and if you read my last blog, I’m sorry to say that the bet is off…THANKS, TOM!) but it’s interesting that even in this, probably the most challenging time in my adult life to date, I don’t find myself heading in that depressive spiral. I can’t really explain it. Oh, sure, I’m anxious as hell, and scared, and I’m still having regular nightmares, so all is not, by any means, shits and giggles in my psyche.

Of course, there’s no hiding from reality. There are serious topics out here to be reckoned with. Really, there is just one topic and it is the MORTGAGE. My husband is doing well at work, God bless him, but I do need a job that pays me a living wage and makes use of my talents and years of experience. I don’t have any clue if such a job exists. I am back at Square One and have to pick myself up by my bootstraps and renew my search.

I suspect that the lifting won’t require Herculean strength, though. There’s a lightness in me now that I don’t recall being there before. A tendency toward upbeat instead of downtrodden. I mean, in the past two months I have experienced the agony and ecstasy of life all rolled together in one big ball, and at some point, you’ve ridden the emotional roller coaster long enough to know that if you don’t learn to enjoy the ride, you might as well just get off.

Maybe some day, I will be one of those…you know, truly happy people. They exist, right? I’ll do what I love/am passionate about, in a positive environment, and get paid enough to live while still have time for my hobbies and my friends and family.

I’m nowhere near there yet. I’m kind of in purgatory. We tend to think of that as a negative place, full of suffering, but as far as I’m concerned, there’s no reason it can’t be a table-slappin’ good time.

If it seems obnoxious, or a little crazy, to others, that’s OK. It’s rather therapeutic for me.

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