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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?