A Sense of Humor in a Challenging World

by Elana B.

Humor is a blessing. It makes us smile. It makes us laugh. It helps us enjoy life more often than not. It even helps us see funny when we don’t feel like it. It gives us perspective. It can take a frown and turn it upside down into a smile!

Some people seem to see the world as “funny”, while some see shadows all around. What makes the difference? If we’re a “shadows” kind of person, how can we step into the sunshine? Are some people born to be happy with a good sense of humor, and others to feel down and out emotionally, not get the jokes that life dishes out to the more-optimistic brothers and sisters in this world?

It is important to accept the fact—no one sees humor in everything, all the time. Even individuals who can find humor in most instances have difficult days, when gray clouds gather and emotions are a storm. And sometimes it’s not appropriate to be jolly when we or someone else struggles just to put one foot in front of the other—physically or emotionally. Humor has its place—for some of us, it’s a big part of life, but for some, it’s an acquired skill, not so easy to come by.

When we learn about anything, we usually immerse ourselves in the effort. I can’t learn to ride a bike if I just look at it, or stand astride it. I get “involved” by watching someone ride—see how they get on, find their balance, pedal, brake, steer and turn with the handle bars, and use their feet when they stop. Next, I have to try it (usually with someone helping me). It may take a few tries before I can ride a bicycle on my own, with confidence and skill. It may take a lot of trying before that happens. The point is, I can’t buy a bottle of “Ride a Bike”, swallow it and expect to pedal off into the sunset without a mishap!

Finding a sense of humor is like riding a bike. First, I have to want to develop my sense of humor. Second, I have to spend resources—my time and energy—to understand what bike riding (humor) is all about, and how, with my limitations (maybe I don’t have good balance), I may need to spend more time mastering the art of bike riding than someone else. Then I need to work on each phase until I have confidence in my ability.

There is an old saying, “Once you learn to ride a bike, you never forget.” This is true for developing a sense of humor. And just as there are lots of different kinds of bikes—colors, styles, sizes, etc.—there are lots of different kinds of humor in our world. What strikes you as funny might be ho-hum for someone else or draw blank stares. Just as there isn’t one kind of bike, there isn’t one kind of humor that appeals to everyone, although the sight of me slip-sliding on an icy sidewalk comes pretty close to a one-size-fits-all approach to what makes us laugh. I know how funny I look, and I laugh harder than anyone else when I begin the ice dancing “festival” and become the entertainment in the neighborhood.

Part of humor is not taking things too seriously. There are subjects that just aren’t funny. But aside from the terrible, tragic, sad, and unfortunate things that happen to us, there are many opportunities to have the last laugh! Where you put your focus will determine how well you face challenges, difficult times, uncomfortable or frightening situations, and how you can bring your own brand of humor into play. And humor is about being playful—taking a situation and finding the funny in it. All the truly successful comedians know how to do that—Lucy and Ethel in a chocolate factory with a runaway conveyor belt, Jim Gaffigan talking about food we shouldn’t eat, Carol Burnett wearing a curtain-rod gown as Scarlett O’Hara. The list goes on.

Finding your funny bone is a good place to start if you feel left out, or humor-disadvantaged. Surround yourself with funny, positive people and funny stuff: cartoons, movies, or books that make you laugh. I have several that help me turn a gray day into sunny. Find your how-to guide by browsing at the local book store, library or online and discover what gives you the giggles. Let silliness into your life. Who can stifle a laugh when watching a YouTube video of cats or dogs doing something utterly ridiculous? Seek and you will find the funny stuff in life. Make a list of what makes you laugh, and when challenges seem to take over, threatening thunderstorms, you will have what you need to challenge the “weather” by putting on your raincoat, riding your bike and laughing at the rain!

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