Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Art of Laughing in the Face of Adversity

“My sporting exploits extend about as far as some tail end batting for my local cricket team. I have a weakness for cheese, chocolate and red wine to the horror of my neurologist who visibly winces when I step on the scales. So I don’t run for buses let alone marathons. I swim like a fish (of the battered variety with chips). And as for cycling, the sight of me in Dayglo Lycra is enough to stop traffic. Definitely not for the squeamish!”

 That’s just a taste of my friend Jon’s writing. Humour, of the English variety – self-deprecating, well-written and insightful – is his forte born out of the irony of being a neuroscientist who earlier in his career researched Parkinson’s, only to be diagnosed with the disease in 2006.

Jon and I have become good friends. While that only occurred because we had this dreaded diagnosis in common, I am confident we will remain friends even without sharing “the good vibes”. We both love words and blogging. Jon shares his life and laughter in his blog, “Slice of Life”, found by clicking here. While our styles are different (being funny is NOT my gift), our common goal is to encourage others and, perhaps in the process, keep ourselves more positive. We both seek to avoid taking our common ailment, or ourselves, too seriously yet candidly share our current or anticipated challenges.
LOL, the ubiquitous acronym along with a smiley face emoticon, seems to have taken the place of actually laughing out loud or smiling like your face is fixed in that position. Nothing lightens the load like laughter. It cuts self-pity to shreds and leaves in its place a smile that cannot easily be erased. A sense of humour and the ability to see comedic sketches played out in the circumstances of life is a gift that needs to be nurtured. Often a belly laugh can push pain to the perimeter more effectively than any pills. But if you are like me you see the pathos of life much more easily than the amusing. So how do we avoid the downward spiral of seriousness in a world that can sometimes specialize in suffering?

Jon has published his side-splitting, real life scenarios in a book with the same title as his blog, “Slice of Life”. Bite-sized readings that prohibit a frown from forming on your face for hours make this a book that can be read anywhere, any time, even if you only have a few minutes. I urge you to consider buying it (my copy is already dog-eared and moist with tears of laughter). You can preview the book or buy online here. I am recommending this book not just because he is my friend, but also because he fills a void by using humour as a helpful strategy in fending off an otherwise formidable foe. Oh, and by the way…despite what some folks believe about the mercenary nature of lawyers, there is no commission, kickback or under the table compensation to me. A portion of the proceeds from Jon’s book goes to Parkinson’s research. Another plus!

Let me leave you laughing with another vignette from Jon’s book:

“Last Sunday I decided to nip out to buy a new laptop. For weeks I had been eyeing up a mini netbook with all the bells and whistles. Blutooth, wifi and goodness knows what else. By any standard, it was a mouthwatering bit of kit. I told my wife where I was going. “Oh, I’ll come too” said Claire casually. “Okay” I said “I didn’t know you were interested in computers”. An hour later we left Comet [store with everything from electronics to home appliances] with a Hotpoint WMF720 with coldwater feed and twin spin cycle.
Yes. A washing machine. Not a laptop.
The word “ambush” comes to mind.
“You’re very quiet” said Claire as we got back in the car. The vein on my temple was throbbing. We drove home in silence.
And the laptop?
I am sorry but “Wait and see what Santa brings you” does not cut the mustard. Why couldn’t Santa have brought the washing machine and let me buy the laptop, I’d like to know. If I had been a five year old I would have stamped my feet. Actually I did.
 This is a pattern repeated in thousands of households nationwide. I ask you – is there any more depressing sight than a husband gloomily traipsing around Curry’s or Dixons while his wife compares all 78 tumble dryers? After the first five machines, even the rictus smile of feigned interest on hubby’s face has faded. Another ten and he is casually shuffling toward the video cameras whilst remaining in earshot. After a further 20 dryers he has abandoned all pretense and is fast losing the will to live. Quarter of an hour later, the wife reaches a decision just as the husband finally reaches his own, coming down narrowly in favour of pills over a noose.”

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