A columnist's secret: It's OK to laugh
During challenging times, people say, “It’s okay to cry.” Society universally accepts that, in order to overcome sadness, frustration and even anger, one mustn’t bottle up these uncomfortable emotions. One must be granted permission to cry, without fear of judgment or reproach.
But what about laughter?
People also say, “laughter is the best medicine,” yet at the same time, we are expected to act “appropriately” in the face of suffering and hardship. Apparently, there is a fine line. I hate fine lines because I tend to cross them. If we make the wrong joke at the wrong time, we are relegated to being ... DUN DUN DUN ... inappropriate.
When my husband deployed for a year in 2008, I had an all-out, snotty blubberfest on a weekly basis to “cleanse” my stress. However, I learned that crying wasn’t an effective long-term strategy. By the seventh month of the deployment, I was drowning in endless minutia. My head swam with rational and irrational fears. Are the neighbors mad that the kids left scooters in the cul de sac? Did I pay the water bill? Are my teeth turning yellow? Am I an awful parent for serving macaroni and cheese three nights a week? Does my bunco group talk about me behind my back? Am I using the right sugar substitute? If I hate Skyping, does it make me a bad wife?
My weekly waterworks sessions weren’t enough to get me through the deployment — I needed a lifeline to lead me out of the chaos and back to solid ground. For me, that was laughter.
At my children’s swimming lessons, I organized my scattered thoughts on a yellow legal pad. By the time they learned the crawl stroke, I had written four humorous essays about parenting, marriage and military life. Writing about my reality helped me sort my thoughts into what was truly important, and what wasn’t worth worrying about. Through this process, I found that crying about hardships in my life wasn’t nearly as therapeutic as laughing at the ridiculous details in between.
Socrates once said, “The comic and the tragic lie inseparably close, like light and shadow.” Writing and telling funny stories is my way of achieving my own sense of “mindfulness” during times of insecurity, hardship and even tragedy. Our whole family uses humor for fun and as a coping mechanism to approach delicate topics, get through awkward situations, deal with stress, and put others at ease. So rather than tell others, “it’s okay to cry,” I encourage them to see the humor in car pools, chicken nuggets, juice boxes, minivans, and so-called Supermoms. There is so much to smile about — you just have to know how to see it.
“You tell the best stories!” I’ve been told. But my life is not extraordinary. There’s nothing significant that sets my family apart from other military families. I’ve never been nominated for Military Spouse of the Year. I’m not academically gifted. I haven’t done anything to merit accolades of praise, swarms of sympathy or chants of disapproval. I haven’t reached Nirvana ... yet.
For the 28 years my husband was active duty, I was a garden-variety stay-at-home mom and Navy wife with three kids, a dog and a good meatloaf recipe. If I had any unique quality, it was simply my ability to see fodder for funny stories in everyday life.
I honed my knack for storytelling while writing on that yellow legal pad back in 2008, as a way to cope with deployment stress. Two years later, I published my first humor essay in the Washington Post and created this column, “The Meat and Potatoes of Life.”
The secret I don’t tell anyone is that it was by pure accident that my home-grown therapy became my career. Writing was something I did to cope, but through the process, I became a columnist and an author.
That’s cool, because I’m all about bonus prizes.
As life continues to challenge us all, I’ll continue to tell the funny stories that helped keep me afloat during stressful times. Sure, crying is good, but I’ve learned that sometimes it’s better to live, love, and by all means, laugh.
Read more at themeatandpotatoesoflife.com, and in Lisa’s book, The Meat and Potatoes of Life: My True Lit Com. Email: email@example.com