LAUGHTER FOR LIFE
A few days after 9/11, I was scheduled to give a presentation to 200 people. Everybody had been watching TV all week, and their heads were filled with those tragic images. People were depressed and shell shocked. There was no way to ignore it or talk around it. It was hanging over the room like Mount Doom in those Frodo movies.
To be honest, I wasnít sure exactly what to do, having never before given a talk immediately after a national tragedy. So I improvised and shared some thoughts about focusing on what we can and can't control, using some funny songs to illustrate that.
To this day, I have never had an audience laugh harder. The amount of emotion released was amazing. In our relief, we realized life would go on and we could still smile. Laughing together connected and supported us.
At one point, illustrating how we can take responsibility for our own lives, I asked the audience, "If I'm the problem in my life, I'm also... what?" Normally they all answer "The Solution." But this time, before anyone else could answer, one brilliant woman yelled, "The problem in everyone else's life!"
It got a huge laugh, so I've been using it ever since.
The truth is we control very little of what happens around us, but we can always choose how to respond. As the author Jessamyn West famously said, "A good time to laugh is when you can."
We all know that life is serious. If we forget, we can just turn on the news for five minutes and get reminded. But let me ask you, are you like me? Have you ever had the particular gift or talent of making life even more serious than it already is?
As a kid I was a worrier. I'm still a worrier, but I've gotten better at it. I'm a more efficient worrier now, I do it in less time. So I wrote a song about that called Writer's Block: The Long-Term Positive and Negative Effects of Worry.
It starts with me being worried about not writing, then I realizing I'm worried, and feeling ashamed about that. It hits me that I'm feeling ashamed about being worried, so I start to feel guilty. Then I get embarrassed that my shame could make me guilty.
So I get angry at myself because I'm so immature as to be embarrassed. Then I remember how bad internalized anger is for my health, and I become fearful. As I get more afraid about what I'm doing to myself, I realize I'm getting depressed.
Since all this negative emotion will probably kill me, that gives me something new to worry about. Realizing I may not have long to live, I write it all down. But once I write it all down, I've got a new song! And everything is fine again.
(This song is very popular with therapists.)
Humor is an antidote to worry. We hear a lot these days about the benefits of living in the present moment, about being in "flow." Worry and certain other emotions keep us stuck in the past or future. The thing is, it's okay to look at the past or future. Just don't stare!
One great benefit of humor and silliness is they snap us back into "Now." Once we're in the moment, we're more focused, more productive, more fully engaged. It's a lot more fun. Finding the humor in challenges reduces them to manageable proportions.
© 2010 Greg Tamblyn
Tamblynís music can be heard, and ordered, online at www.gregtamblyn.com.