“This all sucks and it’s stupid.” Yes, it does and it is. But help and life and light are everywhere around us at this moment. Laughter and joy may not save our lives (or they may) but I think the life we have in the moment of laughter is one worth living.
Many years ago, the writer Norman Cousins was diagnosed with an painful illness that doctors believed would soon end his life. Instead of checking into a hospital, he chose to check into a nice hotel, eat from room service and watch funny movies most of the day. The experience convinced him that laughter – as well as a positive attitude, joy, love – was at least as therapeutic as the medicine he was prescribed. He writes about this in his book Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient: Reflections on Healing. He lived over 25 years longer than his doctors had predicted. I remember it was big news at the time. When I was diagnosed, I thought about Cousins and started watching movies that made me laugh: Foul Play, A Fish Called Wanda, What About Bob, High Anxiety, The Big Lebowski (the dude abides), Young Frankenstein, The Court Jester (the chalice from the palace holds the brew that is true), Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House. Oh so many more, so many wonderful movies. I watched them many times, over and over. I checked out the whole collection of Frasier and Monk and just relaxed into the fun. Sometimes I’d go onto YouTube and look up stand-up comedians I liked and listen to one or two of their routines. Relax and enjoy yourself. It isn’t that easy when you’re worried, but when you’re watching movies you love or reading books you love, time slips away and you come back to yourself refreshed and relaxed. And I think your spirit rises. Could any prescription be better?
I’ve always loved the story the ancient Egyptians told about judgment in the afterlife. The heart, set free of the body, was weighed on a scale. To be accepted in the afterlife, the heart had to be lighter than a feather – lighter than a feather, imagine; like the saying “angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.” I was such a serious person, usually trying to save the world, one way or another. This illness taught me the truth of letting my soul be light, letting my heart be lighthearted, taking myself far less seriously. I still have to remind myself to lighten up, to let my soul soar without weight, to laugh, let go, to enjoy the moment. Old habits die hard, but it’s worth the effort. Funny how laughter becomes effort. We live in a VERY serious age. So serious, that there’s even a style of exercise called “laughter yoga” (http://www.laughteryoga.org/english). I’m going to have to go and see if I can lighten up just a little more.
There are plenty of comedians who can make you laugh even about cancer. Just got to YouTube and type in cancer and humor. Here’s a sweet one that only took me a minute to find:
There is no proof, as far as I know, that this laughter does anything medically therapeutic for you. But I know from my own experience that laughter and love and good times makes a huge difference in the life we have right at this moment.