Tag-Archive for » laugh «

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015 | Author:

There’s this thing about me (that everyone says, but I don’t believe everyone means it, or knows how to do it): I absolutely love to laugh.I love funny movies. I love funny books. And over the past couple of years, I’ve discovered the joys of stand up comedy. (Did you know you can listen to comedy on Pandora? No? You can thank me for changing your life later. Note: If you like “cleaner” comedy, I’d suggest creating both a “Brian Regan” station and a “Jim Gaffigan” station on there.)

I didn’t know about the whole pandora trick until I was in a very sad, lonely, and broken season of life. And something odd started to happen. As I listened to more comedy, I became funnier. Which was hard for me to see, because it was clear that it was the most broken, least joyful I’d ever been, but I could make people laugh. Soon though, the things I’d say that actually made me laugh, they were about my pain. About the ways my life had gotten derailed. About the crap that most people would say is too serious to laugh about.

And I realized something. As I laughed about it, it lifted the pain a little. As I laughed about it, it took some of the power away. I wrote about this a bit last week about laughing at the real memory of my older sister after she passed away — not the fake, funeral-story version of her. The real her was kind of ridiculous sometimes, and we would laugh at those things in life, why not in death? Because death is too serious.  So when we started to laugh at her memory again, it took some of death’s power away.

Here’s a confession, but don’t stone me before you listen: I love Hitler jokes.  This also came out of this sad and dark season of my life. It started with one Hitler meme I saw on Pinterest that I will include for your enjoyment.

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(Not enjoyable yet? read on.)

I saw this meme around Valentines day, and I laughed and laughed and laughed so hard. To think of Hitler as this twitter pated 6th grade boy was hysterical to me.

And then I realized something — it also takes away the power that his memory holds. The atrocities done at his command. The manipulation. The reign of terror. The blood of millions. The man that did gut-wrenching things that he fought so hard to accomplish and we fought so hard to stop — he becomes a joke. He becomes a human again who we can laugh at. I saw my laughter taking him off of his pedestal of cruelty and inhumanity, and placing him on a ground where he can be laughed at because he looks like a twitter pated 11-year old in this photo. (And now you can judge me. I understand, Hitler jokes are not up everyone’s alley.)

And I resolved to work to get to a place in my life where I could laugh at pain. Not at first, you need to feel it. Pain deserves and demands to be felt. There are real things that must happen because of pain.

But I think it’s a sign of healing, or in some cases, like with Hitler, a forceful display saying “I’m not going to let you have more power over me than you have to.”

That’s what I was saying to death when I started to find the freedom to laugh at the memory of my sister — about that time we snorted pepper to see if it would make us sneeze, and it made out nostrils burn with the fire of a dragon’s breath. Or the way she totally took advantage of my brother and I — borrowing money from our savings accounts to buy her first car, and then saying she’d drive us to go get ice cream if we paid for hers.

That’s what I was saying to the shame of my story when I started to make jokes like “Oh, you you don’t want to talk to awkwardly to that person you kind of know in the grocery store? Just be involved in a scandal. People will avoid you. Problem solved.”  Or laughing with a friend when recounting a first date where a guy was saying his mountain bike got stolen and it was “the worst year ever” and my friend says, “Did you say, wanna bet? Let’s compare.”

That’s what I was saying to the threat of cancer when I found a lump in my breast last year and the on-call doctor with no bedside manner said to me, “Well, you’re young, so it’s probably not cancer. But it might me. Come back in two weeks.” and I said to my friend, “This better not be cancer, because these little things aren’t worth that.”

Last night as I was searching for something to watch on Netflix, I saw that comedian Kevin Hart has a really interesting video on Netflix that I’d never watched before, called “Laugh at my Pain.” I’ve heard most of the bits in that particular stand-up routine online before, but I’d never watched the video.

What caught me off guard, was that the whole first 20 minutes or so is a documentary style piece where Kevin Hart goes back to where he grew up in Philly, and he tells some of his story. In it, his old managers also talk about how he came into stand up comedy, and one of them recalled sitting down with Kevin and being like, “You’re funny. You’re a funny dude. But are you you when you’re up there? Do you leave people know you, or anything about you?”

It was with that admonishment that Kevin started to incorporate some of his real-life, real-story things into his stand up act. His manager remembers that as being where he turned the corner, where he started to really shine. So in the documentary part Kevin tells the viewer about how his mom kicked his dad out when he was four because of his addictions. And he points on the step on the stoop where she made a rule that his dad was never allowed to come past. He tells the real story, he shares the real pain.

And then, the second half of the film (which is explicit, so don’t watch that part if you’re not into explicit comedy), his whole standup routine is about those same things. It’s about what earlier was the painful remembering. And he is able to laugh at it, and invite the audience to laugh at it too. I had heard all the jokes before — but thinking about it in those terms, coming from just watching him tell the real stories, I have never enjoyed his comedy more.

As I said last week, I will teach my children this thought, and tell them to use it on bullies (never the innocent. If they’re the bully, they will be taught a FIRM lesson). But if they’re being bullied, I’ll teach them to laugh at the bully. They may get beat up, but certainly, there is no bully on earth who can stand being laughed at, because they know — it takes their power away.

The bullies in life like death, abuse, illness, divorce, disaster — they do beat us up. But there is some joy in being able to laugh at it. Whether it’s while we’re the kid crumpled in the corner of the school hallway bleeding when we laugh to our friends who rush to our side: “I fall really gracefully, right?” Or whether it’s later on, as we’re healing, when we recount how we swear his fist kind of smelled like Chanel #5 before we blacked out. It might not take the pain away, but it takes the fear and power away.

And there is some humor, because we all have been bullied by something or another. We all have pain. And while it’s important not to minimize pain. It’s also important to not let it rule our lives.


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Jo O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.

Other places are

instagram: @jrolicious         twitter: @jrohanlon

storyofjoblog@gmail.com
Tuesday, December 30th, 2014 | Author:

“How are you?” he asked me, having come up to me in church and hugged me.

“I’m OK,” I said, though eyes rimmed in tear-smeared mascara-clad eyelashes. I smiled.

Then the tears started again softly. Unexpected kindness brings them out. Well, it’s one of the things.

“Sorry,” I said, laughing, pulling a kleenex from my coat pocket to wipe away the small tears. “This is just what I do these days, I guess.”

 

I’ve been told that after women give birth to children, for the rest of their lives their you-know-whats will have a few instances that will just never be the same. Example: apparently while jumping rope (like when working out at Crossfit, not because they’re jump rope champs that want to re-live the glory days) they will pee a little bit.  I’ve actually been at Crossfit competitions with some of the toughest ladies I’ve ever seen, and they’ll be doing the double-unders part of the competition (you have the get the jump rope under your feet twice per every jump), and they’ll start peeing themselves. What’s more, everyone on the side-lines watching will then urge them to just keep going. A very odd thing to witness for the first time, but surprisingly common. Competitive, strong, grown women peeing themselves in public, all because they’ve had kids and their bodies are changed by the dramatic experience. While most things go back to normal, some things never do, apparently.

That has happened with my tear ducts. As I’ve become well-acquainted with loss and grief and pain, my eyes learned to cry. I thought they knew how before, but it’s like they went through labor, and now sometimes, they just flow on their own and I’m over here like “Come on eyes, get a grip! We’re just jump-roping!” I am like Jude Law in The Holiday: “I’m a weeper. A film, a good birthday card — I weep.”

This is not a new revelation, though. I’ve been a weeper for a couple of years now, and learned to embrace it as a part of the new me that I’m discovering and building.

What is new, though, is that in this past year, as I have come alive again, as I have chosen to love life again, as I have found joy again, I have found that my laughs are louder and more common, too.

I laugh often now. Un-stifled. I find that there is lots in life worth laughing about, and I find myself surprised at how hard and how loud I am laughing. At movies. At shows. At my friend’s jokes. At myself. It’s like as I’ve chosen to find joy in life again, the muscles that constricted my laughter went through labor, and now they’re just not as strong, and before I know it I have laughter flowing out of me like the pee down that Crossfit mom’s leg. It just happens and I can’t stop it. And when I’m with people who laugh too, it’s even worse. And by worse, I mean better.

Sometimes, when I laugh too hard and too unexpectedly, there is this laugh that comes out of me that sounds very much like a seal barking. I’ve been embarrassed about it for years, but in the past months it’s becoming more and more common. It’s definitely not an attractive laugh. But I’ve embraced it as the sign that my laughter must come out. That it has been in me untapped for too long. That it is ready to show itself loud and proud — like the seals on the warf in San Francisco. (Not what I’d always hoped to be, but at least the seals look happy.)

In the recent months, my seal bark as well as my regular laughs have been a common punctuation in my days. I’m laughing far more freely, far more often than I’m crying. Which may not sound like a lot, but it’s a testament to me about what life can be again. It can be joyful. It can be deep and wide and tear-filled and joy-filled. And just because my tears are common still in the midst of a life that is often still hard and often still painful, my laughs can also come freely. I can be both incredibly care-filled, and yet care-free.

I am finding that balance and that joy in life again and it is a beautiful, promising thing. As I am preparing myself to start another year, that’s my commitment — to continue to choose joy in life. To put myself in the way of the beauty of the world. To continue to work through my crap and let my tear ducts do their work where they need to. But to let my lungs give birth to laughter at the irreverent, at the comical, at the painful, at whatever they need to, as well.

So if you see me cry, it’s OK. If you hear me bark like a seal, it’s OK to laugh at me (which will actually be laughing with me). And if you see a lady start to pee herself while she’s doing double-unders, cheer her on, but maybe step back… you don’t want to get splashed.

I wish you all a year of laughter and joy. Cheers to a new year.

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P.S. I hope that analogy was worth it. Sorry, Crossfit moms. You rock.

 

Jo O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.

Other places are

instagram: @jrolicious         twitter: @jrohanlon

storyofjoblog@gmail.com
Tuesday, May 13th, 2014 | Author:

powells bookstore card

I was in the famous Powell’s bookstore in Portland, spending over an hour browsing through their cards-and-quirky-things section when I pulled up one of the last cards that caught my eye, and it made me freeze.

In the middle of Powell’s, I could see people meandering around, chatting, browsing, loading their arms and their baskets with books, and I was paralyzed with gratitude. The card in my hand was plain white with a simple, dark-faded-to-light blue font. It’s message was simple: “I’d like to be the sort of friend that you have been to me. -Edgar A. Guest”

And just like that, I was that emotional lady in the greeting card aisle. The memories started bubbling up and brimming at the rim of my eyes: the faces, words, touches, presence of the people who have been a friend to me. And I couldn’t stop the tears from falling.

It was this beautiful mosaic of love flashing before my eyes showing me that in the midst of what has often felt like a life of brokenness and heartache, I am blessed. I am so blessed.

I have had people face shame with me, literally hand in hand. I have had friends who physically held me when I so desperately needed someone to, but didn’t even have the words to ask for it. I have had people who brought me comfort food in the dark hours. Friends who call me several times over the course of days and weeks, and when I don’t answer their calls, they aren’t deterred, they keep calling, keep checking in.

I have had friends who have made midnight drives when I needed them, friends who have flown to other continents to vsiit and adventure, friends who have loved me not because of what I do, but because of who I am and the fact that they decided to be my friend.

I’ve had friends who let me share my painful moments with them. Who, when I say honest things like, “I don’t know how to do this,” have responded honest things like, “You’re not supposed to know how.”

Friends who watch FRIENDS with me when it’s too hard to cope with the heaviness of life. Friends who make me laugh. Friends who let me cry (and some who cry with me). Friends who are honest with me about their own crap. Who journey with me. Who support me and let me support them. Who accept me, enjoy me, and make me lovable through the process of loving me.

And in the card aisle, as I wiped away the sweet tears of gratitude, I put the card back, because I couldn’t afford to buy it for every one of the people I had thought of in those moments. But as I moved from that spot into the rest of the store, I felt like it was time for me to make a move in my heart — a move from gratitude to fruitfulness. Like the card says, I want to be the sort of friend that you have been to me. I am so blessed by these people throughout my life. But it’s time I started to be a blessing to them, and others too.

Thank you for blessing me, and for showing me how incredibly powerful it is to be loved by a friend like you. And thank you for modeling how to be that kind of friend. Some of you may never read this, but you have shaped my life, and now you’re shaping my heart. I thank God for you.

Joanna O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.

Other places are

instagram: @jrolicious         twitter: @jrohanlon