Sunday, August 02, 2009

“I never forget a face, but in your case, I’ll make an exception.”
Groucho Marx, target unknown

“He’s a nice guy, but he played too much football with his helmet off.”
Lyndon B. Johnson on Gerald Ford

‘”Good taste would likely have the same effect on Howard Stern that daylight has on Dracula.”
Ted Koppel

For the past 8 months I have been writing about how humor, laughter, mirth and joy, increases our immune power, improves heart health, increases your sense of well being, improves relationships and ….the list goes on.

Today, right before I started to write this article I didn’t feel like taking my own medicine. I slipped and fell on the 4th of July, hurt my leg, can’t do my usual yoga, cant ride my bike and the last straw came today. We had our windows cleaned professionally this past week and they were so clean that I didn’t see that the sliding glass door was closed. I ran smack into it. My nose hurt for an hour and I left a big grease mark. As I got the glass cleaner, my concerned husband heard my yelp (translation: several ‘blue’ words) and asked what happened. I was so angry I almost answered him with direct aim of the Windex bottle to his groin. Any other time I may have considered this funny slapstick, a mere slip on a banana peel. Not today… I had enough of feeling physical pain, clumsiness and helplessness...

I sat down at my computer to write M.I.R.T.H. Notes… and there in my email box, was a seemingly sweet story, with a surprise , sarcastic, superior, caustic, rude ending. I laughed a hearty,”HA.” In fact, I hated to admit it, I felt better.

C.W. Metcalf writes,” Although comedy can be used to injure and separate, it can also be used to transform anxiety to pleasure.’

I think of the gallows humor that nurses (me included) use to cope daily with Cancer, AIDS, Alzheimer’s and Hospice patients. Nurse humor is only for other nurses.

I remember the time I was a hospital clown and there was a woman in a full body cast. She was totally dependent on everyone for her personal daily habits. She was also mad at one of her doctors. She had seemingly no control over anything. I got that ‘brat like twinkle’ in my eye, and wrote the MD’s phone number on her cast... “For a good time call 555-5555.” She crinkled her nose and laughed. She regained control and composure with safely expressed hostile humor.

Consider the story (usually attributed to Norman Cousins, a pioneer in laughter therapy) about the man with constant pain, in the hospital. He was fed up with tests and the constant disregard of his current nurse. Once again she said ‘WE need another urine sample” and placed the cup in front of him... When she left the room, he filled it up with apple juice. The nurse came in, stating, “My aren’t WE looking a little cloudy?” Norman put the cup to his lips, and sarcastically stated, “Well, WE will just send it thru again.”
Yes, this is sarcastic humor at one nurse’s expense. And yet, it’s also a relief of tension for the patient.

Many have lost their income, homes and healthcare. Making fun of the politicians, bankers and employers may give people some semblance of control over the indignity of it all.

Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust Survivor (Man’s Search for Meaning) says it best:
Humor was another of the soul’s weapons in the fight for self preservation. It is well known that humor more than anything else in the human make-up, can afford an aloofness and ability to rise above any situation, even if only for a few seconds.

I feel better; perhaps it was looking up famous insults for this article. Maybe it was listening to Tom Lehrer songs. I think I can kiss my husband now. And, more importantly, avoid the sliding glass doors.

Blessings of Humor, Laughter and Mirth (and a little bit of sarcasm),
Debra Joy Hart RN, BFA, CLL
Age Wise Care Management