Life is funny, isn’t it? I don’t mean “funny haha”, I mean that life is a self-propelled roller-coaster ride of both joy and sorrow. All of us have unique burdens and “stuff” that we carry, but everyone experiences both joy and sorrow throughout their lives. How we manage these experiences can define our existence, and help us choose our next path (for better or worse).
Joy and sorrow are proof of life. We tend to obsess over past mistakes with that gut-wrenching emotion called regret, or we worry so much about the future (what we want/don’t want to happen, as if we had complete control over that! Ha!), that we forget to stay present in the moment, and enjoy the little things that are happening right before our eyes. Or maybe that’s just me? Either way, I subscribe to the belief that “without pain, there can be no pleasure; without sadness, there can be no happiness; without these, life is endless, hopeless, doomed, and damned” (Ellison, 1999).
If you follow me on social media, you know that our current state of affairs is far from funny. Our political climate is basically a ticking time-bomb, and the tilted Supreme Court proved that they want to combine church and state, travel back in time, and challenge basic human rights that have been in effect for years. Women’s rights, in particular, are being targeted by some backward States, including the right to choose, right to contraception, and privacy; other “rights”, such as gay and interracial marriage, may be on the docket next. Don’t even get me started on the corrupt dynamic duo of Clarence and Ginni Thomas, who actively tried to overturn American democracy … but that’s another post for another day!
In nursing, we (intentionally or unintentionally) practice a therapeutic technique that incites laughter at the craziest things, which are usually quite serious, but occasionally, are seriously hilarious. Rationale being, it is better to laugh, than to cry. “Life has sadness and tragedy in abundance, but at the same time, it is pretty funny … humor can bring joy and reduce suffering” (Brooks, 2021). According to Sabato (2019), the use of levity can come from having a degree of distance from the immediate situation. I think this is something that healthcare providers aim to achieve when they are caring for their patients, especially during emergent medical situations. We have to be somewhat detached so that we can focus on the task at hand.
Sabato (2019) states that humor is tragedy plus time, and when we recollect serious misfortunes we have experienced, we can find some parts become more amusing as time passes. I believe this to be true. I have reflected on some painful memories in my life, and looking back, when I recount one of those stories, I am now able to make a joke about how great I am at making major life decisions (usually my pathetically endearing attempt at sarcasm and self-depreciation).
I started this blog 5 years ago (August 17, 2017 to be exact), because I had just taken a leave of absence from my job in NYC to help care for my Dad, who was transitioned by his Oncologist into Hospice care. It was a way for me to process my feelings of sadness, and very soon after, (August 26, 2017), grief. My joy and sorrow are experienced almost simultaneously because my Dad always kept his sense of humor, even as he experienced pain and a dismal fate. He made jokes about his plot in the cemetery being so close to the road so that when I visited him, I could just wave and not have to get out of the car. When asked how he was doing/feeling, he would immediately respond “fine and dandy”, or that he’s “still alive”. I know he did this not just for my benefit, but because he was still processing his own end of life. Brooks (2021) writes that “humor has an almost anesthetic quality to it, lowering the focus on pain, and allowing us to remember the joys in life”.
Life is funny, isn’t it? My advice is to always look up.
Brooks, A.C. (2021). The link between happiness and a sense of humor. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2021/08/humor-happiness/619704/
Ellerson, H. (1999). Paingod and other delusions. E-reads.com
Sabato, G. (2019). What’s so funny? The science of why we laugh. Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/whats-so-funny-the-science-of-why-we-laugh/