Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Laugh

They say laughter is the best medicine.  I’ve used that as a tagline for a comedy fundraiser over the years, and studies have shown health improvements from the endorphins released over time.  It makes sense, really – if stress can screw up every aspect of your health, then surely laughter can make it better.

So I laugh.

Not just to improve my health, but to improve my sanity (ok, maybe that’s still questionable).  When I’m frustrated, I laugh.  When I’m aggravated, I laugh.  When I’m overwhelmed, I laugh.  When I am completely exasperated, I laugh.  As I tell people, I laugh … so I don’t cry, scream, or hurt someone.



It’s funny how many people have offered their arms for me to punch after I've said that.  Then we both laugh.

The thing is, in most situations, that really does help.  Here’s an example – this happened a few years ago, and while I was going through it, most people told me how much they would be screaming if they were in my shoes.

Wanted this for years - still love it - ain't it cute?
I bought my dream car back in 2005.  It was Certified Pre-Owned, which I assumed meant it was in good shape, and I wouldn’t have any major mechanical problems anytime soon.  Well, we all know what happens when you assume.  Less than 2 weeks after I bought the car, I was stranded.  It was the day of my company picnic (so I was excited to show off my new ride), and when everyone was leaving, I was stuck.  I called roadside assistance, and I laughed with my friends while we waited (for hours) for the tow truck.  When I went back to the car dealership, I laughed at the ridiculousness of the situation, and the workers did all they could to help me.  They gave me a loaner car – a not-so-mini-minivan to replace my cute little convertible – and I laughed at the irony.  A few days later, I got my car back.

Two weeks later, I got stuck again.  Same problem.  I called roadside assistance again, and got towed back to the dealer again.  They gave me a loaner again – this time a cute car (but I still liked mine better).  Again, I laughed with the dealer.  When I explained why, he offered me his arm. 

Most people I spoke to at the time could not believe how calm I was through the whole ordeal.  They told me all the things that they would have done differently, and some even offered to go down to the dealership to “take care of things” for me.  But that really wouldn't have helped.  I could have cried about it, but the only person affected by that would be me – and not in a good way.  I could have demanded that they take the car back, give me my money back, and start over somewhere else.  But I loved that car, so I’m the only one who would lose if I did that.  I could have gone down there (like many suggested), and screamed at the dealer, the mechanic, and everyone else who worked there.  But that wouldn't get my car fixed any sooner.  As I told my friends, I’d much rather be seen as the nice sweet girl who they’d want to help than the nasty b**** who could just wait until they felt like getting around to (I was sure they’d rather get to a paying customer before one under warranty anyway).  I could have taken the dealer up on his offer, and made him physically suffer for my emotional anguish (ok, I’m not that strong, so it probably wouldn’t have hurt much).  But when I didn’t punch him, he had a remote starter installed in my car for free.  That has come in really handy over the past five winters!

Of course, there are still moments when I break down, and I do cry or yell (I still try not to hurt anyone).  But when I think about those moments, I relive the stress, the anguish, and the frustration that went with the situation in the first place.  It’s amazing how much we feel again when we’re thinking about what we've endured.  When I think about the times that I laughed, I’m able to laugh again.  My focus is on the positive outcome, rather than the rough road that led to it.  Personally, I like that feeling a lot better.

So here’s my suggestion: next time you find yourself in a stressful situation, picture your life as a sitcom.  That pile of papers on your desk could grow so high that you couldn’t even see out from behind it … and you could laugh.  You could get to the train station just as your train pulls away … and laugh.  You could burn the frozen pizza you were making for dinner, and laugh about it for years (that’s how I won my husband’s heart over 20 years ago, and we still laugh about it).  Quite often, the end result will be the same (you’ll do as much work as you can, you’ll catch the next train, you’ll go out for dinner instead), but the way you feel will be so much different.

When going through difficult times, we often say that someday "we’ll look back on this and laugh"  … I say, why wait?

**If you like what you read, tell a friend!  Actually, tell me too - post a comment below!!  If not, well ... I'm all for honesty, but please be gentle!