I’ve been re-reading my blog posts from last year, getting them ready for Blurb to slurp them up into a hard copy book that I can put on my library shelf and I’ve come to realize that I use the word ‘damn’ entirely too often when I write. At least I did during my second year of widowhood, and probably in my first year as well, Back then, I’m guessing I even used a few more colorful swear words along with the damns. In my offline life, when I’m around “real people” I check myself from saying things that might offend others. I might accidentally slip with the D word on occasion but never the F or P word. Let’s back up here a minute: I’m not saying the people who might be reading this online aren’t real people. It’s just that readers have the option to quit reading at any point. When you sit next to someone out in public it’s harder to just walk away or to tell them that you don’t appreciate their “colorful” language. I’m not a language prude, don’t get me wrong, but on the other end of the scale I also don’t like comedians who depend on blue or crude language to get their laughs. To me, it’s like listening to a band that only plays two notes over and over again. Get a dictionary. Learn something new!
For the next ten days my city is hosting its 4th annual Laugh-Fest, a festival of laughter that includes over 260 events spread out over 65 stages in the area, half of them free and many of them child-friendly. The whole event is billed as a “Laughter RX series, a prescription for emotional health” and the proceeds all go to the local Gilda’s Club. This year the headliners are Jay Leno, Jim Gaffigan and Lily Tomlin and in past years we’ve had Lewis Black, Betty White and Bill Cosby in town performing their acts. There are amateur stand-up comedy competitions as well as professional acts plus films, bands, open mike joke nights, storytelling and a ping pong competition with some weird twists. Even a 5K race takes place where you have to wear your underwear over top of your running suits to participate. Heck, even I got an invitation in the mail to see a standup comedian doing old people humor at a retirement village.
Gilda Radner, for anyone not old enough to remember her from Saturday Night Live, died of cancer and afterward her husband, Gene Wilder, and her cancer therapist co-founded the first Gilda’s Club in New York City, a place where cancer patients and their families can get free support. The movement to establish a Gilda’s Club to my city was started by one of the pillars of the community after her own bout with cancer and, boy, is it successful. This local club house gave birth to the very first festival of laughter in the U.S.A. and its grown every year. It’s sad that until this year I didn’t appreciate what is going on right in my own back yard. But I do now, and yesterday I read through their schedule of events looking for something free I’d like to see. I found an art exhibit at the local art institute billed as ‘humor in craft’ that I may go to if the snow ever stops messing up the roads. The whole city wants to make us laugh. Even the libraries are displaying books known for their humor.
I love the following Gilda Radner quote: “Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.”
I rarely do that but it sure is a good goal to work towards, don’t you think? In our Western culture we can get obsessive about planning the future and micro-managing our days, and we think we can know where we’ll be in life five years from now, even ten or twenty. But something comes along like cancer or the death of a spouse or a disability and we have to rearrange our thinking in a big, hard hurry. Suddenly, we start lamenting the fact that we didn’t take more time out of our hectic schedules to watch a sunset at the beach, appreciate the sounds of a summer evening, or even to play connect-a-dot with our freckles and an ink pen.
“Taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what will happen next.” Jeez, half the time I can’t even enjoy my first cup of coffee in the morning without looking over my job list for that day. How do we get to that point where we can quit worrying about what will happen next and just live in the moment, find things to laugh about and love that are right before our eyes? We can all name times in our lives when living in the moment happens spontaneously, or when something grabs our attention and won’t let go like Gilda’s legacy of laughter is bringing to town, but is it realistic to think we can truly maintain living in the moment on a daily basis? Is it even necessary for us to so? Or is it good enough just to seek balance---the yin and yang---the calm after a storm, and laughter to balance out our tears? That darn Socratic Method I learned decades ago in college sure taught me how to ask questions, didn’t it, but it did nothing to help me learn how to sort out the conflicting answers I receive. ©