Laughter can be good medicine…if not for the body, surely for the soul. And thankfully so, for life has its moments when a good laugh is a desperate need.
For me, embarrassing moments have become more than a reflective chuckle but entertaining fodder for future family tales around the fireplace. “Let me tell you what Poppy once did.” These humbling humiliations also serve as a reminder that no matter how intelligent, mature, or confident a man I may be, there are still moments when I do dumb and stupid stuff. The kind of stuff that achieves legendary status with each re-telling. Though it may seem counterintuitive, I find a certain joy in laughing at my own embarrassing antics and have no problem when others have a stress-reducing chuckle at my expense.
Being able to laugh at yourself supposedly is a sign of mental health and resiliency. The writer, Kurt Vonnegut, once said, “Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.”
Though not so funny at the time, I confess to once, ok, ok, maybe twice, having pulled out of the gas station with the gas pump still inserted into my tank. And I’ll never forget the time I asked a woman when her baby was due, only to discover she wasn’t pregnant. To be clear, I have never repeated these cringe-worthy moments other than to share them as a lesson to others.
Yet it is during times of flusters, distractions, and mortifiable actions when finding ways to laugh at yourself can provide a coping mechanism that is far cheaper than drugs or therapy. Though some may disagree with me, my mental health must be in a good state as I have a super-sized abundance of opportunities to laugh at misspoken words, false conclusions, and awkward behaviors.
Those who know me well will agree that my mouth is big enough to accommodate both of my size 11 feet.
Such embarrassing moments keep me humble and remind me that my true joy and strength must come from the Lord, because as a man, I am not perfect. Far from it, I stumble awkwardly through life so much that I wonder if the thunder I hear is but the Lord laughing at my latest red-faced moment. When we can step back and laugh at ourselves, not only do we avoid taking ourselves too seriously, but I liken it to dancing in the rain.
My late wife (Tootie) and I had occasion to dance in once such downpour in December of 2010, as she struggled in her battle with cancer. One of our daughters, who shall remain anonymous for reasons that will soon be obvious, spent several weeks with us helping her mom during this crisis. One Saturday, she noticed a growth on our pet Chihuahua’s belly. Concerned that her momma’s favorite pet “Cha-Cha” might be seriously ill, she insisted we (meaning me) take her mother’s beloved pet to the Vet to be checked out. “Let’s not bother mom, this would only upset her.” That sounded good to me, so, being the loving husband that I was, I dutifully took our shivering precious 4 pounds of bark to our local Vet. It was a short trip. I was home in 20 minutes to tell our anonymous daughter how our insightful and gifted Veterinarian was able to make an immediate diagnosis. To his credit, he explained his diagnosis to me with a straight face. The growth upon Cha-Cha’s belly was not a tumor, but what can be described in layman’s terminology as an “outie.” In other words, the potentially life-threatening, over-sized, scary-looking, fear-inducing “growth” on her stomach was her bellybutton. What made this even more embarrassing, was when we finally shared the story with Tootie, she laughed out loud and said, “Oh yes, I knew that.” Lesson learned — save a Vet bill and ask your spouse!
I still have this gnawing sense that our Vet and his staff had a good belly laugh as soon as I walked out of their door. No doubt, he will include my story in his forthcoming book, “Dumb Things Dog Owners Have Said,” Chapter One ‘The Tumor That Wasn’t.”
Though her illness would soon take a turn for the worse, and we would lose her in the next 45 days, I savored my wife’s ability to join in those moments to dance in the rain. That same week, when our daughter asked her mom why she had done something a certain way. Tootie replied, “Buddy did it.” “But mom, Dad is at work.” And then as if she was imparting some timeless sage advice, Tootie advised, “My dear daughter, when in doubt, blame the husband, especially when he is not here.”
During such stressful times, we found that the right dose of humor is just as important as the right dose of medication. And if we are going to pray and cry through embarrassing episodes, tedious trials, and heart-breaking tribulations, we might as well find ways to dance in the rain too.
Labeling this post as Part 1 might suggest there will be a Part 2. That’s because embarrassing moments, at least the ones I am acquainted with, are not solitary events. Stay tuned. And be ready to laugh again…at my expense.
Note: Picture by Josh Calabrese on Unsplash.com