Saturday, April 17, 2010

Humor and Healing

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I have a fairly well developed sense of humor. Sarcastic. Dark. Dry. Dirty. Sometimes silly. Good timing for the punch line. Part of it is a gift of my Irish genes. The rest I had to work on—to develop. I need my humor, you see, to survive.

I grew up in a house of horror of skewed mirrors and moving floors and nightly terrors. I started to drink when I was sixteen “to escape” and didn’t quit for twenty-five years. I am dying of a lung disease I caused. I take medication for major depression, and I still have crippling panic attacks. To the reader, I am a mess.

But I laugh. Not the laugh of a raving lunatic, but the laughter of a man who still loves life and sees humor in it. And absurdity. A ton of absurdity. And I write about it. First, to entertain me—I crack me up—and then to share my entertainment with you.

I am not, however, the only human on earth who uses humor as a coping or a defense mechanism. There are millions of us. We are the people with damaged and scarred souls who choose life over despair and suicide. We are survivors. Many of us become people helpers instead of people haters and hurters. Many of us talk openly about our damage and scars, not to complain or seek sympathy, but so that others might know that they are not alone.

I believe that my soul is who I am: It is my personality, my uniqueness, my values and morals, the part of me that needs regular feedings of love and usefulness. It is fragile, and both others and I can damage it. Much of my soul damage is a result of my own decisions, but some of it is not. Either way blaming is useless, a cop-out and a crutch, so I get on with life the best way I know how. I laugh, and it makes me feel better.

I used a lot of humor in my work as a chemical dependency counselor. Not always of course, because then I would have been a clown and a chucklehead. But it often helped to dry the tears, and to ease the pain a little, of the women I was attempting to help.

In turn, and almost without fail, these women of the Girl Interrupted-type had their own wonderful senses of humor. Often pessimistic and self-deprecatory to be sure, but also screamingly funny and hilarious. Gilmore Girls and Golden Girls kind of stuff. The comic rather than the tragic. The ability, maybe for the first time, to laugh at oneself with child-like glee and no self-consciousness.

Humor isn’t a cure for soul sickness, and it certainly isn’t a cure for an incurable disease.

But how can anyone ever hope to heal, or to cope with the dark side of life, without humor and laughter?

23 comments:

Robert the Skeptic said...

I understand.

Pat said...

I suspect I'm not the only one who is just glad you are around. Rock on Charlie.xox

Elisabeth said...

Your sense of humour in the face of what lies ahead and behind of you is extraordinary, Charlie. I admire you for it and I welcome it. You make it possible to talk about the unspeakable and I thank you for that.

Charlie said...

It's funny: When I wrote this a couple years ago I had the addicted women I loved in mind rather than myself. Whomever it's about, humor is necessary to balance the pain.

savannah said...

humor may not heal, but it sure gets me through the rough patches, sugar. and sometimes that's all a body needs! xoxoxoxo

hope said...

I work in local government: if you don't have a healthy sense of humor, your head will explode.

So I've kept my head by laughing. By finding the humorous in the very staid world of rules. By gently offering a silly word here or there in hopes of changing a frown to more of a grin.

That's why I like it here...you always make me smile. You allow me to recharge and return to Energizer Bunny status so I can spread the humor on to others.

Thanks Charlie!

Fay's Too said...

Humor doesn't heal? That's heresy. Probably nothing heals like humor. Laughter - the kind tht actually makes tears flow down your cheeks and your tummy hurts - that's the best drug there is! And if I'm wrong. . . . well, the jokes on me, eh?
I love you, Charlie! Don't tell Martha!

Kim Ayres said...

The darker the experiences, the darker the moods, the darker the humour becomes.

I've always enjoyed your humour, Charlie :)

Stinkypaw said...

Charlie, I do love you. (Please don't tell Martha.) I try to laugh every day. Some days are thougher than others, but I still find humor in many things. It's a good way to balance things out.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

You crack me up too, Charlie. I know very few people who have the innate humour in the face of all of life's shadows that you do. The thing that amazes me is that you aren't just putting on a brave face, you really do find it all hilarious. That's contagious.

Unknown Mami said...

Oh, I love this post. I love humor, I seek it out. It is a beautiful life-affirming tool.

I have issues with movies sometimes because if they are dramas they are devoid of humor and life just isn't that way, if it were we wouldn't make it. We wouldn't get up in the morning.

Samm said...

Damn man, Charlie. An incredible and resounding post.

"regular feedings of love and usefulness" are so my thing.

LOL, I can't go without human contact for more than 45 minutes before feeling the itch. Funny movies scratch it for me.

Spam in my inbox, too. Hilarious crap.

-Samm

lisleman said...

I agree we all need it. They say laughing releases some good stuff in your brain so I think it should be part of the health routine.

I learned that in India they have laughing clubs/groups.

Mary Witzl said...

Love this. It's so true. I remember laughing myself silly as a little girl, laughing so hard at some joke that I fell down. And I remember my mother smiling and saying, "Keep doing that. Laughter is the music of the soul." All of us have to keep that music playing -- it gets us through so much.

laytonwoman3rd said...

Another internet friend of mine (albeit one I have met in person) recently noted that her sense of humor "is and always has been absent". That strikes me as one of the worst afflictions a human can suffer. In times of stress, there's nothing like a good session with George Carlin or Eddie Izzard or Jeff Dunham or Professor B. Worm to release the tension.

Unknown Mami said...

I linked to this post today.

Charlie said...

For one of the first times in my life, I don't know what to say. It's impossible to believe I know, but how do I reply to such moving comments?

With a heartfelt and teary Thank You to all of you.

I wonder if these comments will fit on a grave stone. Naw, the stone cutter would probably get my name wrong.

Ponita in Real Life said...

Charlie, laughter is the best medicine, and as a nurse I try to use it often when dealing with my patients. Of course, it has to be the appropriate time, but even minor interjections can, as you said, lighten the mood and help lift spirits.

Good for you for taking the tougher way out of a bad life! Big hugs for a man with a big heart!!!

Tiffin said...

aw Charlie, you know I am with you every inch of the way on this one.

Meg said...

I find your ability to find humor in everyday things very inspiring.

Wandering Coyote said...

According to my father, his grandmother used to say "a laugh is as good as a tonic." I agree. It won't cure the incurable, but it does bring a tiny bit of light when light is so desperately needed.

Keep on laughing, Charlie!

Jimmy Bastard said...

More wisdom here than in a whole stack of unread books. Brilliant!

Charlie said...

Once again, thank you all for your comments. I plan on stopping blushing in approx. a week or so from now.