For nearly thirty-five years, following the publication of Norman Cousins’ hugely successful 1979 memoir, Anatomy of an Illness: As Perceived by the Patient in which the author claims to have cured his severe case of arthritis through daily sessions of watching Marx Brothers’ movies and other funny shows, the process of laughter has had a good reputation in the popular imagination for healing.
Certainly my own efforts to recover have depended to a great extent on my ability to find joy and pleasure in my every-day activities, especially when I was heavily burdened by worry and fear during the early days of arduous treatment. During the fall of 2011, when I was confronting serious metastases, I felt powerfully motivated to incorporate some sort of silliness that would cause me to laugh on a regular, if not a daily, basis.
ZenTrainer wrote a great diary a while back on the phenomenon of cancer and humor, something that seems strange to those who aren’t familiar with the situation but that definitely resonates with most of us. I’m glad we have that diary for reference, but that topic is not what I want to revisit now. Instead, my questions for us to discuss tonight are: What tickles your funny bone? Is laughter something that you seek out? Do you laugh mostly from watching people do silly stuff? From reading or hearing comedians? Or from talking with friends, or doing something entertaining with others? Who or what gets you going—your heartrate up, your concentration distracted, your mood elevated?
My favorite interactive laugh generator is playing Pictionary. I love it. It gets me out of my rational head (since I am truly one of the worst drawers in the history of the world), and I am simply delighted to have the chance to laugh at myself, as well as at everyone else who is making a cheerful fool of themselves at the game.
I also love driving on Saturday mornings so I can laugh along with the folks on “Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me!” It’s a great radio program, bringing together current political events and very witty commentators, and I really enjoy the repartee. Fortunately, the broadcasts are archived on line but I am not yet in the habit of catching up with them when I miss shows.
When we still had cable and I was up late, I very much liked “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” I know, I know, Drew Carey is a bit of a persona non grata around here for his reactionary politics—but the cast is so damn fast, and outrageously funny. Watching that show is a reliable way to get me going, too; I’ll have to see if I can find some old episodes on line or on DVD from the library.
Last week my Ayurvedic healer recently lent me a CD that is nothing but laughter, with the plan being for me to listen to it—and laugh along with it—every day. I haven't done it yet, mostly because I haven't been alone at home for several days, and I am self-conscious about trying it out with the others around. It’s been a tough week, with not much inherent humor, but now that I’m on the other end of it I suspect there’s no better time to encourage myself to laugh than when I’m feeling a little heavy and down.
Somehow I had this little nugget WAY back in my memory.
I'm not sure that it is immediately funny to me now, but it sure does show how good it can feel to laugh, and how contagious laughter and high spirits can be.
Monday Night Cancer Club is a Daily Kos group focused on dealing with cancer, primarily for cancer survivors and caregivers, though clinicians, researchers, and others with a special interest are also welcome. Volunteer diarists post Monday evenings between 7-8 PM ET on topics related to living with cancer, which is very broadly defined to include physical, spiritual, emotional and cognitive aspects. Mindful of the controversies endemic to cancer prevention and treatment, we ask that both diarists and commenters keep an open mind regarding strategies for surviving cancer, whether based in traditional, Eastern, Western, allopathic or other medical practices. This is a club no one wants to join, in truth, and compassion will help us make it through the challenge together.