The Fine Line Between Sanity and Insanity
Laughter is often referred to as the best medicine. Sure, it releases all of those endorphins in our brains and causes us to feel a whole lot better, temporarily. How do we develop our sense of humor? Where does it begin to take shape? What causes it to become a great part of our lives or just an extra in an overly serious drama?
There is a fine line between sanity and insanity. Most people wouldn’t laugh at half the stuff I’ve joked about over the years. Why? Because usually the events were sad and traumatic. It would be safe to say that a sane person would not have been able to find anything funny in the situation at all. In my case, it is the ability to find a shred of levity in any crisis that has kept me sane for this long. Laughter is my retreat into a part of me that will not give in to despair. Humor and silliness is my weapon of choice when I find myself stumbling around in the darkest alleys life has to offer. It is the only thing that helps get me out of whatever sink hole I find myself suffocating in on any given day. To live without it for me would be like going on vacation to the funny farm and never coming back.
It Only Hurts When I Laugh
I love that saying, “it only hurts when I laugh”! For me I feel just the opposite. It only hurts when I don’t laugh.
It can be real hard to be around me if you are trying to pick a fight! I just might laugh at you. Think back to the last person that really got in your face. What did that person look like? Was his face red, veins sticking out of his neck, screaming, and spitting his opinion all over you? Did he look intelligent? Probably not. He looked insane and you were supposed to somehow be intimidated by someone who could not contain his own saliva. Like a rabid dog. I cannot help but laugh in the face of someone who presents himself to me in that way. I can’t resist! I can’t have a conversation with insanity covered in spittle. It makes me pull out my funny bone and whack him upside the head with it! Oh sure, now it is very likely that someone that mad will want to choke me but that would only prove my point. I haven’t been choked yet so I’m sticking with laughter over ridiculous tears as much as I can. Anybody that is not in their right mind is not worth crying over. Unless he is your son.
Did You Call Me a Freak?
It took awhile to wrap my brain around the fact that my son had schizophrenia. Laughter did not come easy that first year while dealing with this new challenge. One evening while walking through the living room he stopped mid stride and spun on his heel facing me. “Did you call me a freak”? he asked. Not only was that not funny at the time I couldn’t hardly answer him. Finally, I said, “no, of course not honey”. When he skulked away from me unconvinced I had to figure out a new way of dealing with him. I had to relearn how to mother this new boy that I had just met. The old boy didn’t seem to live with us anymore and that was tremendously sad. I had to learn not to talk him out of delusions but to just encourage him. Just as David Letterman handled his first show after the traumatic events of 9/11, I had to figure out when it was okay to be funny again. Like Letterman I just dove in headfirst. My son always believes people can hear what he is thinking. It is called thought broadcasting and it is a common symptom of schizophrenia. About six months into his illness when he was still trying to figure out ways to leave this earth I pulled out my funny bone. It was all I had to work with. One day as I was about to fix lunch I said, “look, I know you think I can hear everything your thinking but I can’t. So you need to tell me what you want for lunch or your going to get something you won’t eat”! He laughed and ordered macaroni and cheese. From that point on I would poke fun a little at his symptoms and get him to see that I wasn’t about to ignore the elephant in the room anymore. I explained how bad it would be for me as a professional house cleaner to have to come home and clean up after his suicide so he better quit planning one. Jokingly, I was able to reference the fact that I knew he was not sure yet whether he was coming or going. He laughed at that and said not to worry, “I’m too afraid to die to actually go through with it”. What a relief! I encouraged him to stay afraid, stay very afraid of death, and we would be okay.
Death Is Funny
There are times when death is funny. Oh, quit slamming me until you hear me out. Death of a loved one is never funny. How we stave off the grim reaper can be hilarious. We tiptoe around the subject of death giving it more power over us than it has a right to. Most people have this misconception that if they talk about death it will happen. So, they refuse to broach the subject. This makes me laugh. Again with the elephant in the room. Death is going to happen to everyone. We can’t jinx ourselves into dying by speaking of it. Death will come when it is ready and that is all there is to it. It is humorous how much money we spend on trying to look younger as we age. As we approach ages where death is most likely right around the corner we do not want to “look” like we are old enough to die. We want to look in the mirror every morning and fool ourselves. We pull up the skin on our faces, tuck tummies, rid ourselves of spider veins, go tanning, run around in circles on tracks and reach for the elusive fountain of youth all in an effort to kid ourselves. The fear of death makes people do funny things. It makes mid life crisis’s possible. It can cause a president to leave pieces of himself on a dress and narrowly face impeachment. It can cause a golfer on the top of the world to become bigger than life in his own head and lose his entire family in the process. The people that try the hardest to avoid death end up killing their chance at happiness while they’re still living.
Nothing is Sacred
There is no topic that cannot be approached with humor. None. It doesn’t exist. Last week end I had a young man ring my doorbell to sell me a magazine. My son answered the door and flew back into the house with a look of horror on his face. “What”? I said. “Mom, there is a kid at the door and he’s selling magazines because he is trying to raise money to buy new arms”. Have you ever experienced a brain freeze without eating ice-cream? I have on more than one occasion. I told my son to sit down and I would handle it. I half expected to see a young Arab at the door who was trying to raise money for arms, as in weapons! What met my gaze was unexpected to say the least. There was a young Asian boy with arms that were only about 8 inches long coming from the shoulder but ending about where the elbow would be. On the left arm there was only one thumb with a nail. No other signs of hands anywhere. Looking down I noticed an artificial leg. Of course, I invited him in to sit down. I told him how relieved I was to learn he was trying to earn money for artificial arms and not nuclear arms as I had envisioned. He burst out laughing. The ice was broken, my brain freeze thawed. I bought a ridiculously expensive magazine which I am quite sure was marked up by at least three hundred percent. The kid needed arms!
During the course of perusing my choices I asked if I could check out his leg. He pulled up his shorts and displayed an artificial thigh area that was covered in red flames on a black background. The lower leg was just metal rods. I touched it and told him it reminded me of a skateboard. He smiled and said, “I skateboard now and then”. I was amazed to watch him maneuver the paperwork with stubs for arms. He printed out all my information himself and took great pride in how neat his writing was. I told him I would offer to write out the slip for him but I felt that since he was making a sale he should do all the work. He laughed again and said, “I wish more people were like you”! “What do you mean, a little nuts”? I asked. “No”, just funny and not afraid of people that are different”. “Oh, that” I said. “Well, I like to keep laughing through life as much as possible it gets me through the tough times” I told him. Noticing that this young man never stopped smiling. “Besides”, I said, “You are grossly overcharging me for this publication but I know what goes around comes around and somewhere down the line I will get it back, maybe when you get your new arms”. “Ah, you believe in Karma” he said. My daughter and I drove him down the street to meet up with his buddies. As he left the car he turned to me and held up his right stump. I grabbed it and shook it firmly. No fingers clasping fingers, no palms touching, just my hand on his inner arm. He laughed out loud. “Aha, good for you, not many people know what to do when I hold out my arm to them”. I told him there wasn’t much to wonder about. It’s not like he was wearing a ring that people should kiss. Or holding out a wrist watch to display the time. It was obvious to me that a handshake was in order sans the hand. We left each other laughing. I hope to continue to walk away from every difficult experience or sad situation with laughter at least in my heart. After awhile I am certain it will make it’s way to my mouth!