Note from Imperfect Spirituality: Often the fastest way to connect to your spirit is to laugh. Laughter can improve mood, ease pain, and contribute to our longevity. In today’s post Michele Wojciechowski, author of Next Time I Move They’ll Carry Me Out in a Box tells us how humor sustains her through the troubling times. Her Q&A in Wednesday will show us how we can find the funny in our own lives. Now, heeerre’s Michele:
By Michele Wojciechowski
I come from a really funny family. So all of my life, I’ve seen how humor can help us, especially in times of change or challenge.
You know, like when you’re really stressed out.
Sometimes I make folks laugh or make sure I laugh myself because if you don’t laugh, you might just cry.
That’s not to say that crying is bad. It’s actually good. But at certain times in my life, if I cried during the entire dark time, I would have dehydrated on a daily basis!
In order to cope, I often look to find humor in any situation. When my Mom was ill with cancer, I was a mess. She was my best friend, and I’m an only child. My Dad had died when I was 10 years old. As you can imagine, this was one of the most stressful times of my life.
But often, we all found ways of laughing.
One time, my mom had been taken off a ventilator. When the sedation she had had worn off, her oncologist came in to check on her. When he asked how she was doing, Mom responded, “I’m sassy!”
He wrote in her chart, “Patient is alert, talking, and SASSY!” So for the rest of that day, when medical staff would come into her hospital room, they would see that, laugh, and then say something like, “So, you’re sassy today, huh?”
More recently, I’ve been working on my book, “Next Time I Move, They’ll Carry Me Out in a Box.” It tells of how my husband and I found our dream home when we weren’t seriously looking, had to get our place on the market in less than 10 days, and then sell it and move.
As you can imagine, that time in our lives was extremely stressful. But we found ways to laugh about it. I think this is something that anyone can do.
You know those times in your life when the situation is just so absurd that all you can do is laugh? There was one time during the move, when I had to get my then 78-year-old stepdad into the car along with our three dogs and the writing project I was working on at a moment’s notice because a potential buyer wanted to see our home.
I drove to the parking lot of the nearest grocery store so we could sit and wait. It was winter, so we had the car running and the heat on. The dogs decided to become completely manic and chase each other around the back seat while whining and barking. Then my stepdad began to yell at them, which did absolutely no good. And this was not a great environment for working on my project.
Right when I felt like I was going to lose it and start crying, it began to snow. Really hard.
Have I mentioned that we Baltimoreans completely freak out when it snows? Well, we do. Even if it’s only an inch.
What I thought at that moment was, “God, are you serious? Now you’re sending snow? I can’t believe this is happening!”
All I could do was laugh…
Later, when I told the story to my husband, I laughed even more. As I’m telling you about it today, it still makes me laugh.
Laughter helps relieve our stress, to relax, and to be completely “in the moment.” Often, when we’re stressed, it’s not because of what we’re experiencing at the moment. It’s because of what we’re thinking about. If you change your thoughts, you can change your life. Or at least how you feel at the moment.
At my mom’s wake, I asked people to tell funny stories about her. I had a list of “Momisms” that I came up with—things that my mom would say all the time and that folks would recognize as being truly her.
As we shared these, the priest who would say the funeral mass walked in. “I’ve never walked into a funeral home and heard so many people laughing,” he said. “I wish other people could incorporate some laughter into times of sorrow. It’s what the people they miss would want.”
So while we all did cry, a lot, we also laughed. And it helped to ease our pain.
I know my mom was with us too—laughing like crazy…
Michele “Wojo” Wojciechowski is a national award-winning freelance writer and humorist, as well as a standup comedian and public speaker. Her writing has appeared in Family Circle, Boys’ Life, Los Angeles Times Magazine, Maryland Life, Baltimore magazine, the BaltimoreSun.com, and the Chicago Tribune’s RedEye.com, among many others. She has written the award-winning column, Wojo’s World™ since 2003 and is a faculty member of the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. Wojo lives with her family in Baltimore, Maryland and is never moving again. For more information, visit WojosWorld.com.