Occasionally someone tells me that I seem to have more strange things happen to me than most people. I think that – actually – I just choose to find things to be funny. Among the things I have found funny: my parents’ cancer, cellulite, a broken nose, walking through a sliding glass door, betrayal, embezzlement, and bipolarity. None of those things are inherently funny, but to make light of them gives us a power over the embarrassment or sadness or shame. It’s a survival mechanism.
And the truth is that life is truly absurd. Exhibit A: Tig Notaro.
I first heard Tig Notaro on the radio a few months ago and decided she’s my kind of girl. From an interview with Conan O’Brien last year:
“I got pneumonia and then I contracted this life-threatening, deadly illness called Clostridium difficile and it’s this bacteria that just eats your intestines. I was in the hospital for a week, lost 20 lbs…and then it was my birthday a couple days after the hospital…. A few days after that, my mother passed away unexpectedly…a freak accident…. I got off of a relationship shortly after that, and then I was diagnosed with cancer…. This was all in four months.”
Hilarious. (Actually, not at all funny.)
But shortly after those four months of hell, she actually was able to make light of it all. Maybe she had to.
Things like this happen all the time in real life. Maybe not all in a span of four months, but honestly, ask a pastor. We do crazy/flaky/preposterous/horrible.
- I have literally experienced a single day when three different women each individually told me – confidentially – that they were in love with the same man.
- I’ve sat with a 90-something church member surrounded by all her earthly possessions waiting for her children to come pick her up and take her to a retirement home, only to have her fall into hysterical, Mary-Tyler-Moore-at-the-clown-funeral laughter over the absurdity of being able to fit all her things in a single bedroom after 90+ years of life
- I’ve laughed with family members over the ludicrousness of choosing between the burial vault for their mother with the 25 year guarantee or the 50 year old guarantee.
Especially when we turn on the television and see photos of grieving parents and angry young men and suffering babies and abused women and wastefulness and bigotry and injustice, we see nothing funny. What we see is often unspeakable.
Making light too soon hurts people. But with time it also heals to find the funny.