Thursday, September 15, 2016

Don't Forget To Laugh

We are far too often our own biggest stumbling block. We get in our own way and make things more complicated than they need to be. Then we complain because things aren’t going the way we want them to go. It’s a perpetual loop. I make it too difficult, then I can’t do it because it’s too difficult, then I complain because I can’t do it, then I make it more difficult because I’m frustrated, then … You get the point. It’s a vicious circle, and our own actions are the beginning, the end, the radius, and the diameter.

One of the ways that we do this is by being too serious. Everything is a challenge. Everything is a competition. Everything is a matter of life and death. Everything requires your game face, your A-Number-One effort, your highest concentration. Everything has to have your best at every moment or you’ll never get ahead, you’ll be a total failure, and you’ll never get another chance.

Nonsense!

None of that is true. In fact, most of that is the antithesis of true. The attitude that says All or Nothing is often why we end up with nothing. It’s not because you didn’t put enough effort into it, but because you thought you had to put too much effort into it. You were so busy being your best that you forgot to enjoy it. You forgot to be you, and you forgot to live life.

Life is not a contest, there is no scoreboard, and you are not in competition with anyone. The purpose of life is to live. While you’re taking everything so seriously and making it all so much work, life is passing you by. That’s horrible. The whole point of everything else you’re doing is to enable you to live your best life. If you’re not living, no amount of best effort will prevent all of that work from being wasted.

There are things that require a serious effort. That is true, and we should absolutely put a serious effort it when it is needed, when it is useful, when it will actually do the job. Most of the time, though, all of that serious effort isn’t doing the job. It’s making the job more difficult. Relax. Take a breath. Laugh. If it’s not actually a matter of life and death, or something in that neighborhood, you probably have some room to maneuver. You have space to breathe. You probably have a reason to laugh.

Laughter may not always be the best medicine, depending on what ails you, but it often goes hand-in-hand with the best medicines. Screwing on your Grumpy Face is not going to make you feel any better, but laughing frequently will. It’s cathartic, and it’s hopeful. How many times have you sat there crying with your best friend, commiserating over some heartbreak, when your friend reminds you of something silly that happened? You look at each other uncertain, then you grin, then you laugh, and then you feel better. Maybe just for the moment, and the problem isn’t solved, but you feel better. It helped.

This is something I learned as a kid. You see, being laughed at is one of the hardest things for some children, and it’s one of the central points of being bullied. You wore the wrong clothes, had the wrong haircut, or just walked with the wrong gait, and people point and laugh. They’re not subtle about it either. Right out in the open and making sure that everyone knows about it. To this day, the fear of being embarrassed, the dread of being laughed at, is still one of the most difficult struggles I face on a daily basis, but I’ve learned how to short circuit it most of the time. It’s different if I’m the one laughing at me. I can’t be the joke if I’m the one making the joke, and it helps me to remember that it’s not really so serious as all that. Let them laugh, but I’ll make sure they’re laughing with me rather than at me. The fear of embarrassment stems from taking things too seriously, but I can throw that off balance and cast it in a new light by being the one who laughs at it.

When you shift the balance in this way, it’s not the clothes that are funny. It’s the importance placed on the clothes. It’s not the haircut that is funny. It’s the importance placed on the haircut. You see things from a different angle, and that angle pulls away some rather harmful illusions. We get our priorities so out of joint sometimes because we don’t step back and look at things from different angles. When we finally do take stock and notice the absurd ways that we were trying to organize life, sometimes the only rational response is to laugh. Let it all out, take a break, and then see about putting things back together in a better order.

If you can’t laugh at yourself, you are taking things far too seriously. Life has a beginning and an end, and no one gets out alive. What you leave behind has far more meaning than what you try to take with you, and they won’t remember you for the big house or the fancy car. Oh they might appreciate them, and then they’ll use them and they’ll be gone. They won’t remember that A-Number-One effort, but they’ll remember that time you made them laugh. The good times we share are the best memories we make, and those almost always include laughter.

Do the work you need to do. There are serious things in life, and they deserve the effort you need to give them, but don’t let them be all of life. You are alive to live, so live. Make memories that will be worth sharing. Eat the cake, watch the sunrise, and don’t forget to laugh. Laughter makes most things better.

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