In less than a month, we've had a lot of challenges in our family. Two hospitalizations, one surgery, one concussion, four wisdom teeth removed, one ER visit, a major school change, $1400 worth of car repairs, a cancelled trip to Hawaii. The past year has been full of challenges including hospitalizations, at least five ER visits, kids growing up (and the challenges therein), kids moving on, and just a lot of really sucky things. Recently, I've had some friends ask me "How do you keep your sense of humor through all of this?"
And my answer is simple. What else is there?
When everything around you is crumbling, why crumble too? Most of us don't have the luxury of dissolving into a puddle of tears on the floor - at least not for very long. We still have jobs to do, bills to pay, dinner to make. We still have to clean up the dog shit off the floor, sweep up the cat treats from the bag the kittens chewed a hole in, take a kid to school because he missed the bus, and drive....everywhere. Checking out is not an option.
At least in my world.
As many days as I'd like to just say "nope" and crawl back under the covers, I know I must keep going if for no other reason than it's my job to take care of shit. So I just do. And after the first few Really Bad Things happen to you, it actually gets a lot easier to deal with the other Bad Things that don't seem as bad once you've been slapped in the face with a few really crappy happenings. And mixed in there, somewhere, with all of the chaos and craziness of your life when things are crummy, are the Little Things.
Only they're not so little.
Things like everyone hanging out in the family room watching a TV show and just lounging. Even if it's only for a half an hour. Things like laughing at dinner. Someone baking chocolate chip cookies. The kids breaking into spontaneous song, or doing something hilarious that makes me break out my phone to record it forever. Waking up every morning and thinking "I am so lucky."
Lucky because I have a beautiful family and a really nice, big house and an old dog and a weird reclusive cat and two kittens that cause trouble more than they're worth. Lucky because I have a six-year-old minivan with a big dent in the side (my fault) that serves as my home on wheels and in which I inexplicably transport a backpack full of warm gloves among other "just in case" items. Lucky because when I'm really tired and don't feel like doing anything, everyone is ok with cereal for dinner.
And because life is funny.
"Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke" is my mantra. Or one of them, anyway. I love making people laugh and not taking life too seriously. Trust me, I can get caught up in the drama and panic as well as anyone. I've been known to have a freak-out or two (hundred). I've screamed, railed against the gods, thought "why me?" and yes, dissolved in a puddle of tears a time or two. But in the end, I still need to go buy toilet paper and milk. I can't stay on the floor because there's Shit To Do.
And people have it worse. Way worse. If you ever forget that, just watch the news. Things suck everywhere. Way more than you can ever imagine. No matter what is happening to you right NOW, it will change. Nothing stays forever. And if you can step outside your head for just a second and crack a joke, you might just feel better. Humor is healing. And sick and twisted sometimes, but laughing is a whole lot more fun than crying. Crying is pretty much ugly, I don't care who you are.
But sometimes, you just can't take it another second.
So, you have to help yourself. Or, let others help you (I'm still working on that one!). It's ok to make yourself happy and to treat yourself when you're feeling down. Even though I had to drive to the hospital every day, there was a Starbucks in the lobby and I got a peppermint mocha in a holiday cup every single day I was there. ER visits are no fun, but you'd be surprised how amusing a surgical glove balloon can be when you're SO bored. There's NOTHING fun about having a huge financial setback - medical bills, car repairs, replacing an appliance - but "it's just money" has gotten us through a lot. I mean, we're blessed to still be working so we're still getting paid, right? More where that came from. Even if it means cutting back somewhere else.
Being grateful for what you have helps you find the funny in every day life.
So, how do I keep my sense of humor? By appreciating everything I DO have, knowing that life is fragile and broken and messy, but full of so many tiny little blessings that more than make up for the Big Stuff that bogs you down. By surrounding myself with upbeat people who can take a joke, speak my brand of sarcasm, and allow me to complain relentlessly before silencing me with fruity cocktails.
Life is funny. Except when it's not. Then, it's funnier.
Keep your chin up.