Keep Your Sense of Humor…
As you can see, I haven’t gotten very far with my blog re-org! I am determined to focus on that this week, and get two new series started in the coming weeks – one on the ‘inside’ of the chakras, and one on metaphysical and occult themes. These are both topics I love, and I hope you will too. And if you think they are not your thing, I encourage you to give it a try first before unsubscribing – you never know:-)
In the meantime, this weekend I watched the movie Funny People, which I really enjoyed (although it did get a bit long and indulgent at parts). It’s not really a funny movie, but it has a lot of funny moments, and more than anything it reminded me of why we need to laugh. Life overall isn’t very funny either, but if you don’t laugh while you are in it, you will be hopelessly crushed by the seriousness of your own intent. And I realized that this is one thing that unites two themes of this blog – spirituality and motherhood. In both, it helps tremendously to keep your sense of humor.
Laughter is a great way of letting go. This has been proven scientifically over and over. Laughing releases endorphins and lowers stress hormones in our system. The other two activities that do the same are sex and meditation. Some would say laughter is the least work of the three.
I once attended a spiritual workshop where we each had to think of a situation in our lives that had been really embarrassing for us, and try to tell it to the others in a way that made them laugh. Not in a self-abusive way, just funny. We were supposed to notice how the ‘sting’ of embarrassment that we felt when we initially remembered this event subsided (and if there was no sting, it wasn’t the right event for this exercise). I think this really gets to the heart of how humor and spirituality are linked. When you can laugh at something that once was not funny to you at all, you have gained some perspective. The sting of embarrassment – or even worse, shame – is like a knot inside you, and when you have come to the point where you can at least smile at it, you can untie it, let it go.
One of my favorite Buddhist books is Chogyam Trungpa’s Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism. This is not a light read. It is all about how the ego can co-opt the spiritual process, and our practice can become a way of accumulating even more baggage, instead of shedding it. And smack dab in the middle of this discussion, after dense chapters on the proper guru-student relationship and the hard vs. open paths of Buddhism, there is a chapter called ‘Sense of Humor’. And basically, it is all about how keeping your sense of humor is ultimately what will save you from spiritual materialism. It is the mark, in a way, of true self-awareness.
I am not really a funny person, and I certainly can’t write funny. But I do love to laugh. And I have realized lately that I need a bit more of this, especially in parenthood.
Similar to the spiritual workshop I mentioned above, I once attended a parent education workshop where we all had to confess our most embarrassing moments as a parent to date. I had plenty to choose from (even more now), but the two stories I told then were:
- One day when the twins were just a few weeks old, I had gotten all three kids down for a nap at the same time (a minor miracle) and was using the time to pump some breastmilk while reading a magazine (which is what passed for relaxation at that point in my life.) Then I saw the UPS guy walking up the sidewalk towards our door. In my mad dash to get to the door before he rang the doorbell or the dog started barking, either of which could have woken everyone, I forgot to re-attach my nursing bra and pull down my shirt, thus opening the door and greeting him with a full frontal. He looked downright terrified when he saw me, and I am sure that in my unshowered, sleep-deprived state, I looked completely psychotic.
- Once, I locked all three kids in the car. My eldest was 2 and the twins were around 6 months when this happened. After packing the diaper bag, getting all three of them in the car, and strapping them into their seats (all of which took about 1/2 hour in those days), I realized that the stroller I needed was not in the back. So I threw my purse and the car keys into the front seat, before shutting the car door and heading towards the stroller. I heard an ominous click when the keys hit the seat – the lock button had been triggered and I was now locked out.
My cell phone and house keys were also locked in the car. So, I ran to the neighbors and called AAA, who informed me it would be at least 45 minutes before they could get there. My neighbor, a retired fireman, suggested we call the fire department, as he said they had the equipment to unlock car doors too. So we did, and they arrived in under 3 minutes, with full sirens blaring. It turned out they did not have the right equipment to unlock our car, but their presence did attract lots of neighbors – mostly retired men (we lived in a community with lots of older people at the time). As I desperately tried to distract the kids by singing songs with my two-year old through the window, this increasingly large group of firemen and neighbors debated options for breaking into my car, and occasionally offered me completely unhelpful and patronizing advice such as, ‘you might want to put your keys in your pocket before closing the door next time’. Gee, thanks.
AAA did arrive – in less than 45 minutes – and everyone got out of the car safely. For weeks afterwards my two-year old asked me if I had my keys in my pocket every time I put her in the car, but now, at five, she seems to have forgotten it.
As you can imagine, many of the other stories shared in that parenting workshop involved infant bodily functions and/or loose diapers. The stand-out amongst these was probably the baby that projectile vomited in a priest’s face while being baptized in front of several hundred people in a cathedral. Another favorite story of mine was from a couple that had accidentally left one of their infants asleep in a car seat on the floor of the garage while they drove off to visit family. They had two preschoolers and infant twins at the time, and in the chaos of getting everyone strapped into the car, one got missed. They realized it about halfway to their destination – ten minutes or so – and frantically drove back. Luckily, the little guy was still asleep.
It’s very trendy in some circles for parents (and/or spiritual seekers) to confess all their wrongdoings, and beyond a certain point, I’m not into it. It can start to feel too cavalier, or self-punishing. But at this workshop, as we loosened up and laughed to the point we had tears streaming down our faces, it was deeply healing. Something in each of us, some pressure to be the ‘perfect parents’, was released. We realized what we all knew, but needed reminding of – parents make mistakes, and sometimes sh*t just happens, and our kids will be OK. We will be OK.
This is what laughing is about – letting go. Realizing it will be OK, we will be OK. It’s OK if we yelled at our spouse even though we’ve been meditating for 20+ years (just hypothetically, of course) or are filled with an intense desire to flick someone off on the freeway on our way home from a class on metta (lovingkindness) practice (again, entirely hypothetical;-) We are complicated. And every time we get bogged down in self-judgment (which is not the same as discernment) more weight is added to our already heavy burden.
This seems like a good time to mention (or re-mention) a favorite spiritual blog of mine – Monk Mojo. Really, his stuff never fails to crack me up. Nothing is sacred, least of all the spiritual ego. The punchline on a recent favorite of mine is “the concept you have of yourself is pissing off the concept I have of myself.” It might be an acquired taste.
I am determined to get my blog changes done this week, so I won’t be able to do a lot of commenting elsewhere, but for any of you that make it here, I’d love to hear about things that make you laugh (or even better, your most embarrassing moments – not just about parenting either, of course.) And I’d love to hear from some of you that don’t comment often. Be brave! Share!
In the meantime, I thought I would leave you with some of my kids’ favorite current humor. For the twins (3 1/2), it’s very simple: Just put ‘poopy’ in any sentence, and they will laugh. They are my easiest audience.
My five-going-on-fifteen-year-old daughter is above ‘poopy’ humor now. She is, however, into knock-knock jokes. Here’s her current favorite:
Orange you glad I didn’t say banana?
It’s really very funny in person.