It’s Alright, Ma, It’s Life and Life Only

I’ve been rather absent from the world this week.  Outside of my morning rounds, I’ve stayed out of social media. I can’t say I’ve gotten a lot accomplished, but it feels as if I’ve been resting up or conserving my energies for something. I don’t think something bad looms ahead, though, because I feel extremely positive. So what have I been doing?

  1. I’ve watched the world go by outside my window and have felt no compunction to join in or entertain feelings of guilt for this passivity.
  2.  I’ve watched a fair amount of telly at night, mostly documentaries on a wide variety of subjects from English gardens to the history of China and Mongolia.
  3. I’ve slept, slept, and slept some more. I’ve allowed myself to nap anytime my brain needed to switch off. One morning I took a nap only one hour after my cup of coffee. One night I napped on and off until I finally settled into a deep sleep as the sun came up. Where sleeping and eating are concerned, I followed my body clock, not the one that sits on the bookshelf.
  4. I’ve spent a lot of time with the cats. Or maybe I should say they’ve spent a lot of time with me. I guess I can say I became one of them this week, and they seemed to like this, even tolerating each other to be near me.
  5. I’ve hardly answered my phone, texted only with Nettl, and avoided the internet, except to search things to watch on Netflix and Amazon Prime, or to daydream on Realtor.Com.

In essence, outside of doing some laundry and changing the bed linens, I’ve done absolutely nothing and it was everything I dreamed it could be. But today marks the end of this freeform existence. Tonight I’m making dinner for the guys and me, tomorrow is our little New Year’s Eve Not-A-Party party, and on Sunday evening Nettl returns from New York. On Monday, we’re taking down the holiday decorations, and then life returns to normal on Tuesday.

I’m glad I was able to eventually turn off the voice of the Guiltmaster in my head. It took a couple of days, but I finally succeeded. That alone gave me the vacation I needed; I didn’t realize how much it dominated both my conscious and unconscious thoughts every single hour of my life. It’s an ongoing battle, but as long as I gain new footing and new strengths, I know I’m winning.

And so here we are at the cusp of a new year. Instead of tritely wishing you a Happy New Year, I’ll wish you the ability to make it what you’d like it to be. None of us are victims unless we choose to be, we create our own realities depending on what we expect and feel we deserve. I have good feelings about 2017 despite all the naysayers and Gloomy Gusses. Trump will be inaugurated, some people will continue to abuse each other, and ageing celebrities will continue to die. I’m not focusing on these things as I enter the new year, though, because I also know the sun will continue to rise each morning, some people will go on loving and helping each other, tomorrow’s poets and thinkers will continue to be born, and  that I will continue to write and sing and dance. It is dark ages, after all, from which golden ages spring.

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You Need to Laugh More

Maybe it’s because this blog just looks so black and white, so straight and hasn’t a proper title indicating what my writing style is that some of my readers don’t pick up on the fact that almost everything I say is rather tongue-in-cheek. If you know me personally, or have been around since the days of my old blog, then you’re well-acquainted with my brand of humor. I may have to change the look of this place, however, to give newcomers some idea of what’s in store for them. But here’s a pret-ty solid rule of thumb: if I’m complaining, I’m most likely embellishing the actual situation or my life in general, and things aren’t half as difficult as I make them sound. I appreciate your concern for me, but really, I’m OK.

While contemplating the general style of my personal humor, it occurred to me I might need to do a little research. Do I even know what kind of sense of humor I have? Do you know what kind you have? First of all, I ran into a lot of sites containing long lists of the different types of humor, but these weren’t about how we approach life, they were about comedy.

I’ve never been a big fan of stand up. I much prefer spontaneous humor over someone’s ability to deliver a pre-written, memorized, and well-timed anecdote or joke. There are exceptions, of course. I really love Ellen Degeneres and Billy Connolly, but nothing can make me seriously Laugh Out Loud like watching the old Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts on YouTube. The newer roasts aren’t funny to me in the least, because they’re so mean-spirited. There’s no sense that these newer comedians even remotely like each other whereas the older comedians’ “taking the piss” out of each other just oozes with genuine affection.

But back to defining one’s personal sense of humor. Here’s a little list, borrowed from Psychology Today and tailored to suit my purposes…

Put-Down Humor
This aggressive type of humor is used to criticize and manipulate others through teasing, sarcasm and ridicule. When it’s aimed against politicians, it can be funny and mostly harmless, but in the real world it has a sharper impact. Put-down humor, such as telling friends an embarrassing story about another friend, is a way to deploy aggression and make others look bad so you look good. When challenged on their teasing, the put-down joker often turns to the “just kidding” defense to avoid responsibility even as the barb bites. Wankers. There is no evidence that those who rely on this type of humor are any less well-adjusted, but it does take a toll on personal relationships. I don’t like put-down humor, usually, unless it’s delivered by Don Rickles, but even he can make me cringe. In the wrong hands, it’s nothing but a form of bullying.

Taking The Piss
This less aggressive type of humor is used by friends through good-natured ribbing. It actually means they like each other. Often, someone will say, “If I didn’t like you, I wouldn’t tease you” or “I don’t waste my energy on people I don’t like.” I like this kind of humor as long as it isn’t hurtful or masks a secret dislike, but I don’t often practice it for fear of being misunderstood and inadvertently hurting someone.

Bonding Humor
People who use bonding humor are fun to have around. They say amusing things, tell jokes, engage in witty banter and generally lighten the mood. These are the people who give humor a good name. They’re perceived as warm, down-to-earth and kind, good at reducing the tension in uncomfortable situations and able to laugh at their own faults. Ellen DeGeneres embraces her audience by sharing good-natured, relatable humor. Her basic message is, “We’re alike, we find the same things funny, and we’re all in this together.” This is probably most like my humor than any other on this list. Nonetheless, bonding humor can have a dark side. After all, a feeling of inclusion can be made sweeter by knowing that someone else is on the outs. President John F. Kennedy and his brothers often invited a hated acquaintance to vacation with them. They’d be polite to his face, but behind his back the brothers united in deriding the hapless guest. Not my cup of tea at all. This is what I call “clique” humor, something I’ve been victim to on too many occasions to name. This, too is just bullying. You can have it.

Self-Deprecating Humor
In this style of humor, you make yourself the butt of the joke for the amusement of others. Often deployed by people who are eager to ingratiate themselves, it’s the familiar clown or “fat guy” playfulness that we loved in John Belushi and Chris Farley—both of whom suffered for their success. A small dose of it is charming, but a little goes a long way: routinely offering yourself up to be humiliated erodes your self-respect, fostering depression and anxiety. It also can backfire by making other people feel uncomfortable because it may remind others of their own tendency toward self-criticism. Farley, who died at age 33 from an overdose, had a streak of self-loathing. “Chris chose the immediate pleasure he got in pleasing others over the long-term cost to himself,” his brother wrote after his death. The bottom line: excelling at this style of humor may lead to party invitations, but it can ultimately exact a high price. There’s nothing funny about self-loathing, or laughing at someone who suffers from it.

Laughing At Life
When we admire someone who doesn’t take him or herself too seriously, this is what we’re talking about. More than just a way of relating to other people, it’s a prism that colors the world in rosier shades. Someone with this outlook deploys humor to cope with challenges, taking a step back and laughing at the absurdities of everyday life. This is my second style of humor. “If I didn’t have a sense of humor, I would have committed suicide long ago,” as the saying goes, and this kind of humor is the very foundation of my existence. If you can’t get this about me, you’re never going to get me. Sorry, but dem’s da fax.

Judging from this list, I’ve discovered that I possess a combination of Bonding Humor and Laughing At Life humor. I suppose the former might be the outcome of exercising the latter: in both the so-called real world  and on this blog, I laugh at my life in an effort to show you we’re all in this together and that we can’t take life too seriously.

Now, go thee hence and laugh at something while I try to figure out what I want to change about the look of this place!

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