Sometimes humour can be found in the most trying of circumstances, and you can find yourself laughing at times when it would seem more normal or appropriate to be crying. I’ve often found myself in that situation. Humour is a release from stress, kind of like opening a pressure relief valve. It lets you blow off steam in a mostly benign way.
I remember during my Dad’s last days (read about it here), as he descended deeper and deeper into dementia, he often didn’t recognize me. Most of the time he’d call me “asshole” when I entered his hospital room. This was the name he called his younger brother when they were kids, and most of the time I seemed to remind him of my uncle. One time, however, I guess I’d just had enough and my normal verbal filter wasn’t on, and when he called me “asshole”, I responded with a stern “Fuck you, I’ve had enough of your shit! Time to start with a little respect!” That shut down the attitude and brought him back to the here and now. Later, I just had to laugh about it with the nurses in the room, who had been patiently dealing with his increasingly ornery nature all day. In the midst of an unfolding tragedy, and probably the strongest outburst I’d ever let loose on my Dad, I had to just laugh about it. I had to release the stress, the anger, and the grief.
On the discussion boards in the ex-Christian Scientist Facebook groups I’m a member of, the dark humour often comes out for a walk. All of us have our tales of woe, and some live with permanent disabilities as a result of lives lived as Christian Scientists or the hapless offspring of Christian Scientists. Sometimes, in the midst of venting and ranting, we just have to stop and laugh. After all, Christian Science is so ridiculous it’s hard not to laugh at it sometimes.
“‘Mom was a magical thinker,’ . . . ‘So I was burdened with reality.'”1
One person who’s found humour and inspiration from her own family tragedy, is singer/songwriter Jonatha Brooke. Her musical “My Mother Has 4 Noses” is currently playing on-stage in New York City at the Duke Theatre on 42nd Street. The title comes from the prosthetic noses her mother wore due to a deformation suffered as the result of untreated skin cancer because, you guessed it, Brooke’s mother was a Christian Scientist, as is the rest of her family. Brooke is no longer a Christian Scientist. If I was able to get to New York City, I would love to see this musical, and if you are in or near New York City, I recommend you try to see it. The musical tells the story of Brooke’s time as her mother’s caretaker as she descended into the dementia caused by alzheimer’s disease, which finally took her life in 2012. For a review of this musical in the New York Times, click here; also check out the official website for the musical here. As Jonatha Brooke so eloquently says, Christian Science is indeed “magical thinking”–dangerously so.
I have been taught in the Native American/First Nations spirituality I now follow that laughter is medicine. I’ve heard this said many times, and seen it often. In fact, if some of my friends didn’t tease me, I’d begin to wonder if they didn’t like me. We laugh often, sometimes at each other, often at ourselves. Never put yourself up on a pedestal or take yourself too seriously. Life is meant to be enjoyed, and laughed at sometimes.
1 Gross, Jane. “Music Born of Magical Thinking.” The New Old Age. The New York Times. 5 March 2014. Web. 6 April 2014. <http://mobile.nytimes.com/blogs/newoldage/2014/03/05/music-born-of-magical-thinking/?from=newoldage?from=newoldage>